Watering restrictions have been tightened for Tampa Bay residents as the area continues to struggle through a prolonged drought.
People in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties already are limited to once-a-week lawn watering. On Tuesday the Southwest Florida Water Management District's governing board made the restrictions a little tougher.
"We're really asking people to forgo doing any lawn replacement right now, but if they do, the establishment period is tightened. We're asking local governments to step up enforcement," said Robyn Felix of the agency commonly known as Swiftmud.
That means that if you do put in a new lawn, you can water every day for 30 days, and then every other day for another 30 days. People previously were allowed to water new plants every day for 60 days.
The restrictions also mean residents should:
• Do their hand watering of outdoor plants before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
• Turn on fountains and waterfalls for no more than four hours a day, instead of eight.
The restrictions are needed because the Tampa Bay area has suffered through about two years of below-normal rainfall, said Alison Adams, senior manager for the agency Tampa Bay Water, which requested the new measures.
She said the Alafia River is so low the agency has not been able to tap it since September, which is "just unprecedented for this time of year."
The agency has started dipping into water at the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir in southeastern Hillsborough County, but there's a problem there too. The reservoir wall developed cracks, which limit how much water can be stored inside. The agency is suing three construction companies. But even without that problem, the region would be suffering a water shortage, officials said.
In the meantime, Adams urges people to conserve water as much as possible, especially on their lawns as the weather turns cooler.
"You don't need to water this time of year," she said.