HAINES CITY — As parched conditions persist in west central Florida, the region's water management district has put residents on notice: Water restrictions could be coming.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District's Governing Board voted Tuesday to declare a Phase 1 water shortage in the district's 16 counties, which include Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando.
The main purpose of the declaration is to alert the public that watering restrictions could be on the horizon. Watering schedules remain unchanged, but the declaration prohibits "wasteful and unnecessary" water use, according to a news release from the district commonly known as Swiftmud.
The order also requires local utilities to review and implement procedures to enforce year-round water conservation measures and water shortage restrictions.
The district considers water resource conditions and the viability of the public water supply when considering water shortage orders. Nearly all of the district, including the Tampa Bay area, is in the grips of "severe" drought, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center's drought monitor. Despite these conditions, there is currently enough water to meet public demand, according to Swiftmud.
Florida's dry season runs October through May. April is historically one of the driest months of the year.
The other counties in the district are Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Lake, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter.
Information on how to conserve water is available at the Swiftmud website.