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Reclaimed water use goes up

A required cutback in drinkable water on lawns works in St. Petersburg. Voluntary curbs on reclaimed water do not.

By BRYAN GILMER and EDIE GROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- When it comes to saving water in St. Petersburg, telling seems to work better than asking nicely.

One week ago, the City Council passed an emergency ordinance requiring residents who water their lawns with drinkable water to do so one day a week instead of two. Over the weekend, usage was down nearly 10 percent, even though Sunday was a watering day for some households.

"They've done real well there," public utilities director Bill Johnson said of city residents. "I was really, really pleased."

But the council's request that reclaimed water users limit their use to three days per week apparently has had no effect: Customers have used about 600,000 gallons more -- 2.6 percent -- each day since that recommendation.

The council rejected Mayor David Fischer's recommendation to make the restrictions on reclaimed water mandatory.

Fischer and his staff members say system pressure could fall as people water more during the drought. But faced with public opposition to the restrictions from customers, the council instead opted for voluntary limitations.

"There's very little compliance," Johnson said.

For people who watered with drinkable water when they should not have, the city issued several dozen warnings but no citations over the past week, said Joan Bradshaw, water conservation manager for the city government.

"Here, everybody gets a warning first time out," she said. City residents are conserving a higher percentage of drinkable water than those who get their water from the Pinellas County government.

County residents have cut their drinkable water usage 6.3 percent since the County Commission imposed watering restrictions March 21, County Utilities Director Pick Talley said.

St. Petersburg and Pinellas County joined a growing list of concerned Tampa Bay communities by passing watering restrictions. Dry conditions and a severe lack of rain had previously persuaded Hillsborough and Pasco counties and the city of Tampa to restrict water use.

St. Petersburg water restrictions VOLUNTARY (RECLAIMED WATER)

Even addresses asked to water only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Odd addresses asked to water only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays.

Users asked not to water on Fridays.

Watering okay at any time of day.

MANDATORY (MUNICIPAL WATER)

Odd addresses may water on Sundays only.

Households may water 5 to 9 a.m. and 7 to 11 p.m.

on permitted day.

Uses such as boat-motor flushing, hand watering, filling decorative fountains and washing cars are not restricted. New sod or plants can be watered every day before 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m. for 30 days after planting

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