It is amazing how quickly Tampa officials can wilt in the face of the recent rains. The City Council is to vote today on whether to roll back watering restrictions now that two weeks of downpours have augmented the Hillsborough River, the city's main drinking water supply. The move would be premature. It would send the wrong message and amount to a gamble on the summer rainy season.
The 8 inches of rain that have fallen in the Tampa Bay area this month have helped the entire region cope with the drought. But the impact on the river needs to be put in perspective. While the rainfall this May has been more than twice the average, the rainfall in February and March was a third what those months normally bring. Even after the recent rains, the rainfall deficit in the river basin still stands at 37.9 inches.
The city showed leadership in April by imposing the toughest watering restrictions in the state. The ban on the use of sprinklers and other measures have helped the city save 420 million gallons of water. So what is the logic of relaxing the ban now? The public will have a hard time buying the next water crisis if city leaders continue to bounce back and forth between pleading with residents to save and giving them a green light to waste.