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Tampa tightens rules for watering
By STEVE HUETTEL
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 2000
TAMPA -- Tampa has tightened the tap on non-essential water use, leaving residents to deal with brown lawns, dying sod and dirty cars until a persistent drought breaks.
City Council members approved a tough emergency ordinance Thursday that immediately scaled back outdoor irrigation to one day a week.
The ordinance provides few exceptions. New lawns and plants, previously given a 30-day pass on watering restrictions, fall under the same rules as established lawns. Homes and businesses on well water also must observe the once-a-week restrictions.
The rules let homes and businesses with even-number addresses water only on Tuesdays, odd-number addresses only on Sundays.
Also outlawed under the ordinance: washing cars at home, running decorative fountains and filling kiddie pools. Using commercial car washes is allowed.
Tampa Mayor Dick Greco said dangerously low levels in the Hillsborough River, the city's primary water source, leave officials no choice but to cut back on water use.
"We're asking people to please understand, please adhere to what they're told to do," Greco said. "It's a serious situation and not something that's going to be remedied overnight."
Rainfall is 11 inches below normal for the past 12 months. That has slowed the river's flow to 26.5-million gallons a day, the lowest rate in 25 years, said Water Department director David Tippin.
Tippin left open the possibility of further restrictions, including an outdoor watering ban, if Tampa's thirst for water doesn't drop significantly.
"If we don't get demand reduced, I'll be back requesting more restrictions," he said.
Council member Bob Buckhorn questioned why the water department didn't begin enforcing water restrictions before last month.
The Times reported Wednesday that Tampa didn't write a single warning or violation from July 1999 through January, a period when water cops in unincorporated Hillsborough and Pinellas counties caught hundreds of violators each month.
Four inspectors hired by the city were instructed Thursday to stop issuing warnings and give even first-time violators citations, Tippin said. The first one usually costs $35, he said, but fines can go up to $500.
Tampa is the first community in the area to tighten restrictions due to the drought.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District board, which regulates water use across a 16-county area of West Central Florida, will take up the issue at its March 28 meeting, said spokesman Michael Molligan.
-Times staff writer Angela Moore contributed to this report.
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