Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Water conservation program gets one-year reprieve in Tampa Bay area

Blanket flowers, or Gaillardia, are an example of Florida-friendly landscaping that can help homeowners conserve water.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2009)

Blanket flowers, or Gaillardia, are an example of Florida-friendly landscaping that can help homeowners conserve water.

The Florida Friendly Landscaping program, which helps homeowners save on monthly water bills, will continue another year despite cuts that threatened to end the program.

The conservation effort had won accolades for helping consumers and saving millions of gallons of water yearly, but it fell victim to budget cuts when the Southwest Florida Water Management District voted in late July to end its $500,000 annual subsidy.

The cuts would have shut down the program in the 16 counties where it operates, including the Tampa Bay area, by Oct. 1. Now it seems the water-saving effort will live another year, at least in Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando.

Tampa Bay Water has agreed to pick up the $161,000 tab for salaries and benefits for the program coordinators in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas.

In Hernando, officials opted to subsidize the position and expand the coordinator's duties to include recycling education.

"It just has a lot of value," said Susan Goebel-Canning, Hernando's director of environmental services. "It's a great environmentally friendly program, as far as trying to reduce the amount of fertilizers, control stormwater runoff, reduce contaminants."

The district, known as Swiftmud, said it ended the funding because the coordinators' water-saving tips were already online or known to homeowners. Instead, it said it will focus on an in-house effort called Water Star to persuade builders to construct water-saving buildings.

Counties and county extension services, which administer the program, were floored that Swiftmud was cutting funding.

"There's a difference when people are shown through an outreach effort what can be saved, and if they continue to utilize that information there can be an even greater impact," said Stephen Gran, director of Hillsborough's extension service. "People don't always seek that information, and many times you have to assist them."

Tens of millions of gallons have been saved regionally through the effort, he said. In Pasco, about 3 million gallons are saved monthly, community services director Elizabeth Goodwin Harris said. In Pinellas, the program has saved 13.5 million gallons since 2008.

Word of the cuts came as a shock at Pinellas' extension service where the program's coordinator meets regularly with condo and homeowner associations to find ways to save money, reduce fertilizer use and select plants adapted to Florida's climate.

"Everybody is supportive of the work she provides, so this definitely wasn't good news to us," said Mary Campbell, the extension service's director. "Right away we began looking for opportunities to fund this position."

Tampa Bay Water was already subsidizing conservation programs in Pasco, Pinellas and Hills­borough when its board voted unanimously this month to up its contribution by $161,000.

The board will need to vote again next year to continue the subsidy, which gives the extension services time to seek other funding sources.

"When you realize that almost half of residential water use is in your yard, anything you can do to lower overall usage is a huge benefit," Tampa Bay Water spokesman Brandon Moore said.

Rich Shopes can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

Water conservation program gets one-year reprieve in Tampa Bay area 09/02/13 [Last modified: Monday, September 2, 2013 11:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  2. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  3. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  4. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the funk they are in right now.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Tim Beckham (1) after being doubled off first on the liner by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) in to end the seventh inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, July 24, 2017.
  5. A historic Tampa family saves a historic Tampa home built by an ancestor

    Human Interest

    The Knight family has replaced their roof and people are celebrating.

    The Peter O. Knight historical cottage, located in Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood, is seen Thursday, July 20, 2017. The cottage fell into disrepair in recent years, but the Knight family stepped up with financial support to help stabilize the structure.