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Dry skies cause spike in water use

Michelle Klase doesn't need to review weekend temperatures to know it was hotter and drier than normal.

Water consumption is a good enough indication, said Klase, of the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority.

Residents in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties used 60-million gallons more water than normal on both Saturday and Sunday, said Klase, a spokeswoman for the water supply agency.

"Water use is up primarily as a result of the lack of rain," Klase said.

But forecasters are predicting a break in the dry, hot weather pattern that has gripped the area for nearly two weeks.

A high pressure system will begin to be pushed out of the area today by moisture from the Caribbean, said Scott Willis, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

That should drop temperatures out of the mid to high 90s as clouds and thunderstorms develop during the week, he said.

"With the increase in moisture there should be some clouds around and that should allow temperatures to be a little cooler," Willis said.

Temperatures won't be too much cooler, however. After reaching a high Monday of 96, one degree shy of the record, the high today is expected to be in the low- to mid-90s, Willis said. It should be partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of rain. The overnight low should dip into the mid-70s, he said.

As the week progresses, the weather should return to a more typical summer pattern, Willis said. The chance of rain and thunderstorms will increase to 30 percent Wednesday with highs in the high-80s or low-90s and lows in the mid-70s.

Thursday through Saturday, the highs are expected to climb only into the high 80s. Skies should be partly cloudy with scattered thunderstorms, he said.

The folks at the West Coast water authority said that sounds like good news.

"We're still hoping for summer rain that will drive down water use," Klase said.

Agency officials hope consumption in the area falls back to an average 220-million gallons per day, she said. More rain, Klase cautions, doesn't mean residents should be any less conscious of their use of water.

"When the rain begins again, people should remember to turn off their automatic sprinklers," she said. "Lawns only need to be watered twice a week during the summer."

Lawns should be watered early in the morning or at night as a way to conserve, she said. Water evaporates too quickly during the day and is wasted.

Take vehicles to car washes that recycle water, she said. Or wash cars on your lawns, she said. That way the water, in a sense, is used twice.

In spite of July's dry weather, the area still has had more rain fall this year than average. About 30 inches were measured at Tampa International Airport this year. Normal rainfall is about 23 inches for the first seven months.

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