The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board voted October 27 to tighten water restrictions for all of Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties.
The Governing Board has enacted these additional measures at the request of Tampa Bay Water, the region’s wholesale water supplier. Tampa Bay Water requested the District’s assistance because its water supplies have not returned to pre-drought conditions.
In addition to continuing to restrict lawn watering to one day per week, the new water shortage order calls for local governments to strictly enforce the rules. Additional restrictions include:
Restricting the time for hand-watering or micro-irrigation for non-lawn landscaping to before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
Postponing turfgrass renovation, such as replacing lawns, and taking other appropriate steps to avoid an increase in lawn or landscape water use.
Reducing the 60-day allowance for new plant establishment. During days 31-60, only every-other-day watering is allowed. Some cities or counties continue to have stricter allowances for new plant material.
Reducing the time aesthetic fountains and waterfalls may operate from eight hours to four hours per day.
Limiting the use of unattended line flushing by water utilities.
Requiring water utilities and other local enforcement officials to increase their enforcement efforts, including requirements to respond to citizen complaints and issue citations without having first issued a warning.
The District is still impacted from two years of drought and the region still has a 16-inch rainfall deficit for the past 24 months. All of the water resources have declined rapidly during the first month of the dry season and the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the region in abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions. While groundwater levels are at the bottom of normal ranges, all major rivers in the District are below normal and lakes continue to be one to four feet below normal. Moreover, forecasts are calling for drier than normal conditions through next spring.
Tampa Bay Water can only store six billion gallons of water in the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir, which is about 40 percent of its capacity, until the cracks in the reservoir’s soil-cement layer are addressed. Tampa Bay Water estimates that if the region does not receive above average rainfall January through March, the reservoir will be depleted by early May 2009. Tampa Bay Water’s service area includes Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, as well as the cities of New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa.
Variances are available if a property proposes an alternative irrigation plan (such as splitting a large property into two pieces and assigning a different day to each piece).
Water utilities are required to promote water conservation, conduct a system water audit, and take action based on the results of the audit.
Water utilities and other local enforcement officials must respond to District referrals and regularly report enforcement activity.
Phase II restrictions continue to apply to other water uses, such as agricultural and industrial activities.