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With water so limited, let's limit development, too

Re: Water shortage.

I have lived in Brandon since since 1968, and cannot believe the way the area has grown over the years. I can only imagine how longtime residents of Tampa, St. Petersburg and surrounding areas feel about their uncontrolled growth also. For the past few years we keep getting more strict water restrictions. It started with wimpy low-flow toilets, I believe. Now we can't water plants, wash cars, etc. Of course, there is a drought, and we know that.

But what I don't understand is why so many new crowded subdivisions, apartments and shopping centers are still being built! Right now in Valrico, a six-home-per-acre subdivision is up for approval! If the growth had been slowed earlier, we would probably have more water in the lakes. The concrete does not allow water to go to the aquifers, and the new homes _ some with pools _ all have toilets, showers, lawns and people who will want water, too! Even with a rainy season, we will still be under water restrictions because there are too many people here. Think about the thirsty wildlife, too!

Remember last year? We were under restrictions the whole year. What about next year and the next? Please, we must stop the overbuilding and overpopulating before it is too late! Money talks, but people yell!

Darla Beattie, Brandon

Use water bills to control use

During a time of drought everyone has a moral duty to help conserve what water there is so that the general public supply will be sufficient for the necessities of life.

How an individual goes about conserving the available water is not important, however, just as long as the desired reduction is achieved.

It really doesn't matter if an individual sprinkles his lawn less or flushes the toilet less, just as long as he reduces his overall consumption of water by the required amount.

The water department already has in place the ideal instrument with which to gauge whether individuals, co-ops or businesses are doing their duty in reducing their water usage: the water meter!

Water meters are read on a routine basis, the numbers are fed to a computer and monthly bills are mailed to each customer. On each of my statements, the water usage for the last 13 months is clearly indicated.

A simple additional program in the water department's computer could easily identify each offender who has not reduced his water consumption by his "fair-share amount." A citation could be automatically issued and an appropriate fine added to his water bill.

There's no reason to have "water wardens" sneaking about neighborhoods to catch someone watering their lawn "illegally." Once again, for purposes of extending the available water supply during a drought, the main focus should be on each user reducing his/her overall consumption by a fair amount. The means the user employs to effect the reduction should not be of consequence.

William L. Danek, Sun City Center

Conservation and confusion

Re: St. Petersburg lawn watering rules.

Is it any wonder that people are confused about when they're allowed to water their yards? In a matter of weeks we've gone from twice a week, twice a day; to once a week, twice a day; to once a week, once a day; back to once a week, twice a day. The last change lasted exactly one day! Come on guys, this isn't exactly nuclear science here. Make a decision and stick with it for at least a week or two.

If on the other hand your main objective is not water conservation but rather confusion of the troops, kudos. Keep up the good work!

Conrad P. Lombardo, St. Petersburg

Let's do more than conserve

So, we have a water shortage. We moved here more than 20 years ago, and I can't remember when we didn't have a water shortage. We are told to conserve water and do our best, but we can't continue to build condos, apartments, shopping malls, houses, swimming pools, etc. and expect to service all of these facilities by conserving. If we are going to continue with all of this building, we must do something to obtain additional water. There is plenty of water out in the gulf that we can use by taking out the salt. There is lots of water to the north of us that could be piped down to our area.

Let's conserve water, yes, but let's also see some action besides being told to conserve.

Bob Cooper, St. Petersburg

Try piping water in

Re: Water supply.

Plans are under way to bring another natural gas pipeline from Alabama to Florida. This one, spanning about 670 miles, would be laid partly across the gulf floor. Increasing the use of natural gas is desirable but not crucial.

Has anyone given serious consideration to building a pipeline to transport water from Weeki Wachee Spring, long owned by the city of St. Petersburg, to Pinellas County? This could bring us much needed clean, clear, spring water which is now flowing, unused, into the gulf.

To offset past arguments that such a project would be overly expensive to build the conventional way, why not determine the potential of laying it the needed 50 miles or so slightly offshore in shallow water?

This would eliminate all problems and costs of right-of-way, utility interference and highway obstruction. It might figure to be less costly than the planned desalination plants and without the ecological and maintenance negatives.

If it can be done for long distances for gas, why can't it be done for a relatively short distance for water? Piping water a similar distance has been done for many years from cribs well out into Lake Michigan to suburbs west of Chicago.

Herman A. Nater, Tarpon Springs

Fat cats flourish at our expense

Re: Drought means we must scale back daily water consumption, May 13.

While I certainly agree with Swiftmud's Sonny Vergara that the residents of the Tampa Bay area are facing a crisis and have an urgent need to conserve water, I find certain inconsistencies and omissions in his plea very troubling. Vergara failed to mention that consumers use only about 30 percent of the water consumed daily in our state. The rest is sucked up by big agribusinesses and industrial consumers, who continue to be allowed to exploit our state's available water supplies without any cutbacks or restraints whatsoever. (Voluntary? Puhleeeze!) And no one, particularly Swiftmud, has dared address this problem at all.

Recently the Times printed a story about commercial overwatering actually drowning and destroying priceless ancient forests. A typical industrial farm can use literally millions of gallons of our increasingly scarce water a day without surcharge or penalty simply because it is the cheapest (for them) and most convenient (as opposed to efficient) method of farming. Meanwhile, we, the residents and homeowners _ the vast majority of the people of Florida _ are being told not only to pick up the tab for such greed-driven practices but also to make more sacrifices ourselves to subsidize them even further.

Sadly, this is all too typical of the way our state is being run _ into the dusty ground _ while a few influential fat cats continue to get richer at our expense (and now, at the expense of our lifestyles).

While local politicians seem determined to turn Tampa Bay into another pollution-glutted Houston or Atlanta, state politicians and agencies seem equally determined to turn the rest of the state into a dust bowl. This untenable situation cannot continue much longer, without consequences we cannot even begin to imagine.

E.C. Ayres, St. Petersburg

Get the facts on farm water use

In reply to your April 30 article, Death of a forest, by Craig Pittman and to a May 9 letter (A better irrigation method) by Jay Taylor, I would like to make several observations.

First, both the article and Taylor's reply suggest that any agricultural irrigation technology other than drip irrigation is antiquated. Also, both characterize the efforts of the Southwest Florida Water Management District in the Flatford Swamp as subsidizing irrigation methods that are no longer environmentally acceptable. These statements are simply incorrect.

The vast majority of agricultural permittees in the water management district do not use drip irrigation for a variety of reasons related to site conditions, management and cost, among others. Efficient non-drip irrigation systems exist across the state without causing any adverse environmental impacts. A decision is made by every grower as to the best way to irrigate, given the specific site, the environmental criteria that have to be met and the other best management practices employed. Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd. uses drip irrigation extensively when these circumstances make sense.

With respect to the Flatford Swamp, it is part of a unique basin with unique problems. The efforts there by Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd. and SWFWMD include a variety of field-scale comparisons of innovative best-management practices, as well as a surface water exchange project, which replaces permitted groundwater usage with water that is already in the Flatford Swamp. The environmental and water supply benefits are numerous and the cost is relatively small. It is a classic win-win situation in all respects _ less water is pumped out of the ground and excess water is removed from the Flatford Swamp.

Ignoring these facts, which were given to Pittman in a lengthy interview with me, seriously misinforms your readers. As to the comments by Taylor, our worthy competitor, they need to be taken for what they really were: competition.

The continuing efforts by SWFWMD, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and the individual companies in the Flatford Swamp will make a difference, notwithstanding Messrs. Pittman and Taylor.

Mac Carraway, CFO, Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd.,

Palmetto

An absurd reason for appeal

Re: Witness' prosthesis biased jury, appeals says, May 12.

Give me a break, please. I thought I had read some stupid things, but this article regarding Lawrence Singleton was either the height or depth of stupidity, however you wish to look at it. I think the Public Defender's Office is really searching the bottom of the barrel to find a reason to appeal this case.

I am sure Mary Vincent would have preferred not to have appeared in court gesturing with her prosthesis. Because of Lawrence Singleton, this is all she has to gesture with. I am sure her preference would be not to have ever met this man. What a sorry sight to behold, Mary waving her prosthesis in the courtroom. My, my, what a horrible thing for Singleton to have to bear.

At least she is still able to communicate, Singleton's last victim, Roxanne Hays, will never speak again. Mary Vincent speaks for her. I know nothing about Roxanne Hayes, except that she is dead and Lawrence Singleton is alive. What's wrong with this equation?

D. Jo Parsons, St. Petersburg

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