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Ban on new reclaimed water hookups may end

If the proposal is approved, new hookups would be allowed only on streets that already have reclaimed water lines.

By BRYAN GILMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayor David Fischer's administration agreed Thursday to lift a moratorium on new hookups to the city's reclaimed water system if the City Council gives the mayor emergency rationing power.

Under a proposed ordinance, reclaimed water customers would be limited to three irrigation days per week whenever the mayor declared an emergency. The new hookups, which have been banned for about a year, would be allowed only on streets that already have reclaimed water lines.

The highly treated wastewater is distributed in a different system of pipes than drinkable municipal water. Customers have been allowed to water all they like with it for a flat $10.36 per month.

The City Council last month shot down the idea of permanently restricting reclaimed users to three days per week. It will consider this new idea next week. The City Council Policy and Planning Subcommittee recommended approval Thursday.

Restrictions become necessary during times of drought when too many reclaimed water customers turn on their sprinklers at the same time. That causes the system pressure to drop, and no water or only a trickle comes out of some customers' sprinklers.

The council enacted temporary three-day rationing last summer when that happened after weeks of debates to reach agreements that restrictions were needed.

The new law would give the mayor the power to declare an emergency and impose this schedule of rationing: Customers with odd-numbered addresses would water Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and customers with even addresses would water Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

The mayor could declare a reclaimed water emergency no more than once every six months, and rationing could last no longer than 90 days unless the City Council granted an exception.

At the request of council member Bill Foster, city attorneys added a provision to the proposed ordinance giving the council the power to cancel an emergency declared by the mayor.

"It's easy to declare an emergency and leave it in place after the emergency is over," Foster said. "This gives us that safeguard."

City Public Works Administrator George Webb said there are 280 applications on file for new reclaimed water hookups that have been filed during the moratorium. As many as 1,500 might join the system if the moratorium is lifted, he guessed.

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