The days of inexpensive water likely numbered in Tampa

Most Tampa leaders say an increase in the city's relatively low rates is needed to cover repairs.

Published May 29, 2007

Tampa water customers' rates are among the lowest in Tampa Bay. But that's likely to change.

With the city under pressure to encourage conservation, meet rising demand, repair leaky pipes and give more fresh water to the Hillsborough River, Mayor Pam Iorio wants to increase water charges.

Tampa residents pay $12.42 per month for 8, 000 gallons. St. Petersburg residents pay $31.15. Clearwater residents pay $36. 38 and Pinellas County customers, $35.32.

Most City Council members, who will need to approve any price bumps, support the idea.

But at least two members question whether it's necessary.

"Maybe that's one of the nice benefits of living in the city - we've had lower water rates and it would be nice to keep them low, " council member John Dingfelder said.

The city already has spent millions from its reserve funds to buy water to meet demand that can't be met by withdrawals from the Hillsborough River, the city's primary source of drinkable water. The price tag this year will be between $5-million and $10-million. Iorio wants to recoup that money, adding about $36 to $72 a year to water bills.

Fast Facts:

Rates vary wildly

Tampa has among the lowest water rates in the region. Here's a look at typical monthly water bills in the area, based on 8, 000 gallons of water a month:

Belleair - $8.68

Tampa - $12.42

Temple Terrace - $18.54

Plant City - $19.12

Pasco County - $25.29

Tarpon Springs - $26.03

St. Petersburg - $31.15

Pinellas County - $35.32

Clearwater - $36.38

Hillsborough County - $38.03

Pinellas Park - $42.48

Source: Southwest Florida Water Management District

Conservation tips

- Water lawns during the early morning when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation.

- Position sprinklers so water lands on the lawn and shrubs, not the street, driveway or sidewalk.

- Raise the lawn mower blade to its highest level. A higher cut holds soil moisture better than a closely clipped lawn.

- Plant drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees.

- Take shorter showers

- Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water and use this to water plants.

- Run dish washers and clothes washers only when they are full.

- Don't let water run while shaving or washing your face.

- Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.

- Look for hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.

For more water conservation tips, go to www.tampagov.net/dept_water/conservation_education/