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Rain pushes down water usage

Heavy rains and less lawn watering contribute to a decrease from March 2000 consumption, records show. More restrictions will come as the drought continues.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001


Amid the gloom about drought-inflicted water shortages in Pasco County comes a glimmer of good news.

Thanks to unusually heavy rain last month, Pasco's water consumption dropped 22 percent in March 2001 versus March 2000.

Pasco residents used an average of 18.93-million gallons a day in March 2000. A year later, average daily consumption was 14.76-million gallons.

Water officials attributed most of the decline to reduced lawn sprinkling.

The official rain count at Tampa International Airport was nearly 7 inches in March, more than twice the historical average rainfall for the month.

In spite of drought and constant growth in Pasco, average annual water consumption has held steady from about October 1998 through March 2001.

Pasco utilities chief Doug Bramlett said the county's 17.12-million-gallon-per-day average has changed little in three years, even though the number of Pasco water customers has jumped from 52,248 to 57,460.

That steady water usage -- and even declines in some cases -- is mirrored throughout most of the Pasco-Pinellas-Hillsborough region served by Tampa Bay Water.

Much of the decline is because of mandatory once-a-week watering restrictions. And tougher rules are on the way. The Southwest Florida Water Management District has ordered Tampa Bay Water customers to cut consumption by 5 percent.

Pasco plans to approve an emergency water ordinance on Tuesday that will ban, among other things, weekend car washing.

Residents can scrub their cars only once a week, on the same day between Monday and Friday designated for lawn irrigation.

Washing a car parked on a driveway or street also will be illegal. The ordinance reads that car washing "shall be conducted over a non-impervious surface."

Violators would pay $30 for a first offense and $250 and $500 for a second and third offense.

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