Letters to the Editors
Let development depend on the availability of water
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001
Editors: Tampa Bay has a serious water shortage because of growth and natural conditions such as unreliable rainfall, limited ground water and saltwater intrusion. To make it go away we must do two things: increase supply and reduce demand.
The supply side is being dealt with by pumping ground water until all of our lakes are dry. We are drinking from our rivers but only when we get enough rainfall. We will convert saltwater to fresh water if we can control the costs and not harm our bay. We are even building a huge pipeline to connect Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough so that any available water can be delivered to where its needed.
Conservation is the only way to reduce current demand so we homeowners are learning to do without, and commercial users also have restrictions. But we must also reduce the growing demand from new developments without sacrificing our economic well being.
Let's not limit our options to such weak-legged measures as telling developers there's no guarantee of water for their new projects or that they can't water new landscape when they build them. Once they are built, it's too late and we will all continue to suffer. We must do more.
We don't need to stop all development, but instead use the same approach as we do with current users. That is, approve the usual number of building permits when there is plenty of water, but restrict permits when water supplies fall off. Each quarter our water resource teams can give our permit departments the percentage of water shortfall so that permits can be reduced by the same percentage. Despite closed minds and objections from developers, it will work.
This approach has several benefits. It spreads both good times and bad times equally among all members of our community. It avoids the hated M word (moratorium) but satisfies the concurrency test. It takes Tampa Bay Water out of its crisis mode by allowing it to catch up and stay even with future demand. It also demonstrates to future residents and businesses that we can make hard but reasoned decisions that ensure our continued quality of life.
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