Watering rules apply to every homeowner

By Times editorial
Published May 8, 2007

Neighborhood deed restrictions don't supersede county ordinances. That is the lesson some homeowners are learning after opting for illegally watered, but lush-looking lawns over the ire of their homeowner associations.

Pasco County issued 125 citations for illegal watering last week, a crackdown that followed two months of polite warnings including notices on county utility bills and door hangars with proper water times affixed to homes irrigating at improper hours.

Some deed restricted communities require property owners to maintain green lawns. Such a rule is included in covenants to protect the eye appeal and accompanying property values within a community. The intent is understandable, but homeowner groups should ease enforcement of their lawn and landscape rules and encourage conservation during this extended drought.

What is the benefit of a green lawn and higher water bill if it comes with a civil infraction of a county ordinance and an accompanying $30 fine on the first offense, but escalating to $250 the second time around?

County rules allow owners of property of less than 2 acres to use potable water once a week before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m., but not both. The assigned watering day corresponds to the final number of a property's street address. Addresses ending in 0 or 1 water on Monday; 2 or 3, Tuesday; 4 or 5, Wednesday; 6 or 7, Thursday and 8 or 9, Friday. There are exemptions for new lawns and for low volume, hand watering. The schedules differ for reused water and within some municipalities. Check the Pasco County Web site (www.Pascocountyfl.net) or contact the county utilities department for more information.

The rules are designed not only to save water, but also to change public attitudes about conservation. Over the years, Pasco County has shown leadership by imposing tight water restrictions and working to reduce the reliance on groundwater pumping in the region. The county's water rates discourage large consumption and promote xeriscape landscaping, which is a sound strategy for reducing water use over the long term. Pasco also is building a new reservoir in Land O' Lakes to store reused water when demand diminishes during the summer rainy season.

May is traditionally one of the driest months of the year and, the weekend showers notwithstanding, long-term relief isn't expected until the summer rainy season begins June 1. Until then, homeowners should show prudence in water use, while neighborhood associations should show some patience with wilting grass blades.