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Grace period ending for water code violators


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2000

TAMPA -- Unincorporated Hillsborough County residents won't get any more breaks if they forget which day of the week they can water lawns.

When county commissioners cut back outdoor irrigation last month from two days to one, they ordered water inspectors, for 30 days, to give customers who watered on previously permitted days a one-time warning instead of a citation.

That grace period ends Wednesday.

From then on, people caught watering any day except their permitted day -- Sundays for odd-numbered addresses, Tuesday for even-numbered addresses -- will get a citation, said John Fischer, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Water Department.

First-time violators receive a $35 fine, and repeat offenders can be charged up to $500.

The tougher enforcement begins at a time when consumption is edging up. Water use in unincorporated Hillsborough initially dropped when once-a-week outdoor irrigation was imposed March 17.

For the week ending last Friday, county customers consumed an average of 44.8-million gallons a day, easily the biggest number since the new rules were imposed.

Fischer blamed rising spring temperatures. Thirsty outdoor plants become more stressed in the heat, he said, which causes residents to water more.

The city also is seeing higher consumption as the drought drags on. Tampa water customers used an average of nearly 74-million gallons a day for the week ending last Thursday -- the highest weekly water use in a month.

County inspectors will continue to write warnings when they find evidence someone is watering illegally but don't catch them in the act, Fischer said.

They issued 189 citations and 608 warnings from March 17 through last Thursday, he said.

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