Southwest Florida water officials voted Tuesday to issue a water shortage order limiting outdoor watering to one day per week in Tampa Bay beginning next month.
The vote by the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s governing board came after the driest rainy season in Tampa Bay in more than two decades.
The order covers the entirety of the Water Management District — including 11 whole counties and parts of five others — but has extra restrictions for Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. In those three counties, residents will have one day a week to irrigate their lawns. In the rest of the district, the usual twice-per-week watering schedules will remain, except where local governments have imposed stricter measures, but “wasteful and unnecessary” watering, such as hosing down a driveway, will be prohibited.
The districtwide order goes into effect Nov. 21, and the extra restrictions for Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough will take effect Dec. 1. It does not apply to reclaimed water usage.
The order is a modified version of what the Water Management District calls a Phase 1 water shortage order, the least severe of such orders. Darrin Herbst, the district’s water use permit bureau chief, said in Tuesday’s meeting that it “basically alerts the area for worsening conditions as we move forward.”
The move came with the backing of Tampa Bay Water, the public supplier that provides water to most of Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough. Chuck Carden, the supplier’s general manager, said the unusually dry weather and high demand for water are putting pressure on the region’s water resources. As of the beginning of November, Tampa Bay faced a cumulative rainfall deficit of 7.6 inches over the prior year. Its 15.5-billion-gallon reservoir, normally full at the end of the rainy season, was down to about 12 billion gallons at the end of October.
Carden said outdoor irrigation accounts for about half of the region’s potable water demand.
“While we have sufficient drinking water supplies to serve the region, we are now asking to take proactive measures to increase the awareness about conserving water and lowering demand,” he said. “The easiest way to do this is to minimize irrigation.”
Tuesday’s vote marks the first such order in Southwest Florida since 2020, when similar restrictions were put in place across nine counties, including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota. One major difference: That order came in the spring, usually the driest part of the year, while the new one comes at a point on the calendar when water typically is plentiful.
The single-day watering schedule to begin in December is as follows, according to the Water Management District. It does not include the city of Dunedin, which already has a single-day watering schedule.
- Monday: Addresses ending in 0 or 1.
- Tuesday: Addresses ending in 2 or 3.
- Wednesday: Addresses ending in 4 or 5.
- Thursday: Addresses ending in 6 or 7.
- Friday: Addresses ending in 8 or 9, and properties with no clear address.