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County staff queries public about water crisis

Residents who attend a meeting Thursday can comment on water-conservation options and make their own suggestions for dealing with the drought.

By BILL COATS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 4, 2001


LUTZ -- Hillsborough County government staffers are coming to Lutz this week. They are seeking residents' opinions about linking development proposals to the availability of water.

Options, suggested to county commissioners in January, include a variety of new water-conservation requirements, plus measures that would trigger reviews of water use during rezoning and building-permit applications.

The meeting, hosted by the County Line Coalition, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lutz Community Center, U.S. 41 and First Avenue NW.

Jim Porter, chief assistant county attorney, said it is one of a series of meetings that county staffers are conducting among groups with various interests. The staff chiefly is interested in public reaction to the January options, but it also would like to hear other ideas for dealing with the water crisis.

The County Commission assigned the staff on Jan. 23 to undertake a 60-day study of the options. But a building moratorium, which had been suggested for northwest Hillsborough, was dropped from consideration.

The discussions have been prompted by the two-year drought. It has shriveled the Hillsborough River and Tampa's water supply, prompting an escalation of wellfield pumping that already was high as residents around Tampa Bay watered their dry lawns.

The drought has had a double effect on northwest Hillsborough, where most of the public wells are concentrated and groundwater is being drawn down.

"Everyone has a slightly different angle," Porter said. "But everyone understands the gravity of the situation."

- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 226-3469 or coats@sptimes.com.

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