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Reclaimed water project to get going

It begins with a swath through the Interbay Peninsula. Construction begins in 2002.

The lush lawns of Culbreath Isles will remain that way in the coming years, drought or no drought.

That's because enough south Tampa residents have agreed to use and pay for a $22-million reclaimed water project that will save 1.7-million gallons of drinking water per day.

In May, the city contacted 7,800 residents by mail to ask them if they were interested in using reclaimed water for irrigation. On Monday, Tampa Mayor Dick Greco said the city will proceed with the project now that nearly all of the 59 percent who responded have said they are interested. "We have met our enrollment goal, even surpassed it by up to 25 percent, and expect more to sign up as the project moves forward," Greco said.

The mayor said the system, which will be paid for with user fees and a $12-million federal grant, will pay for itself.

Construction will start in 2002 and is scheduled for completion in 2003. The initial phase will serve a swath of the Interbay Peninsula that includes Davis Islands, Hyde Park, Palma Ceia, Beach Park, Culbreath Bayou and Culbreath Isles and the Westshore business district. Those areas will use treated water from the Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant on Hooker's Point.

"With very little more done to it, you could drink this water," Greco said. "I know that may sound pretty yucky, but it's fine for the trees and the grass."

Reclaimed water users won't be subject to the type of water use restrictions brought on by this year's drought. They won't have to pay a hookup fee, and, at $1.34 for every 748 gallons used, the reclaimed water will be 30 cents cheaper than the same amount of drinking water.

Sound like a sweet deal? That's what a lot of residents think, City Council members said Monday.

Linda Saul-Sena, who represents areas in the first phase and parts of south Tampa immediately adjacent to them, said her constituents have been curious about the project. "They say, "How come I'm not included?' " Saul-Sena said.

City officials said they focused the first phase on those parts of the city that use the most water.

"We actually went in and read the meters to see where the demand is," said Ralph Metcalf, director of the city's Sanitary Sewers/Storm Drainage Department.

The city plans to expand the service area north of the Westshore and south of Hyde Park and Palma Ceia _ if more federal funding can be obtained.

Council member Charlie Miranda and area U.S. Reps. Jim Davis, Bill Young and Karen Thurman helped secure the $12-million for the first phase.

_ Wayne Washington can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or