Is it okay to water?

PLAN AHEAD FOR FUTURE: Tampa's council may rethink city water sale issues.

Published May 25, 2007

TAMPA - With water in short supply, City Council members on Thursday said they want to discuss weaning county residents off the city's water supply.

"We've been talking about this for the past year a little bit at a time, " said council member John Dingfelder.

Now he's ready for action.

Dingfelder asked council members to take the next six months familiarizing themselves with water shortage issues. The council should then decide whether it wants to hire a consultant to study the effect of providing water to only Tampa residents, Dingfelder said.

Hillsborough County and Tampa signed an agreement in 1978 calling for the city to supply water to some residents and businesses in unincorporated Hillsborough. The agreement won't expire until 2019, but Dingfelder said it's time now to develop a plan that lessens the demand by customers outside the city as Tampa's population grows.

"I would just caution us, this council, from going down that path, " said council member Thomas Scott, who along with Charlie Miranda did not support Dingfelder's motion.

Scott pointed to $6.5-million that the county paid to upgrade the city's system so water could be supplied to the Palm River-Clair Mel areas in eastern Hillsborough.

Steve Daignault, the city's director of public works and utilities, cautioned council members to think about water as a regional issue. He said reducing the supply area would affect water treatment, which is regulated by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

"It's a little myopic to just look inside the city, " Daignault said. "We are regional partners, and we all need to keep that in mind as we move forward."

Dingfelder said he wasn't calling for immediate changes but a plan for the future.

"Why are we afraid not to study this?" Dingfelder said. "We study everything else."

Tampa remains under an emergency water shortage issued by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Lack of rainfall, drought conditions and an uptick in demand have taken a toll on Tampa's main water supply, the Hillsborough River Reservoir.

The emergency order allows Tampa Bay Water to draw additional water from the Tampa Bypass Canal to add to the Hillsborough River Reservoir. The extra water will maintain water pressure and water quality, the district said. As part of the order, Tampa is required to aggressively enforce its one-a-week lawn watering rules and establish an emergency plan with Tampa Bay Water and the district if drought conditions persist.

During a recent week, Dingfelder said, the city paid $472, 000 to Tampa Bay Water for 200-million gallons of water to supplement its own supply.

Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

How you can help

Tampa's Water Department wants help nabbing water use violators.

- Anyone who observes illegal watering by home or business owners should call (813) 274-8036 and leave a message with the address, date and time of the violation.

- Broken water lines or hydrants can be reported to (813) 274-7400.