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Water rules may drop pressure

Today is Day 1 of the new restrictions, so county officials are watching closely.

By ROBERT KING and JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 2, 2000


Hernando officials say they will cross their fingers today in hopes that water pressure will not fall dramatically as the Tuesday crowd takes its first drink under new rules that limit watering to once a week.

Their concern is based on the theory that even-numbered property owners, now limited to Tuesdays, will make sure they don't miss their only opportunity this week to drench their lawns. A similar pressure drop could be felt Sunday when the odd-numbered folks take their turn. Under the old rules, watering was a twice-a-week proposition.

New rules took effect Monday that limit watering to Tuesdays for homes with even-numbered addresses and Sundays for homes with odd-numbered addresses.

Kay Adams, Hernando County's utilities director, said it's possible that water pressure may fall off before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. -- the hours when lawn watering is allowed on the prescribed days. But the pressure issue should quickly remedy itself.

"We don't know yet if we've got pressure problems," Adams said.

County officials are poised to enforce the new restrictions, Adams said. First-time offenders will get a warning. Two-time offenders will be subject to a $25 fine. And three-time violators will get a trip to court, where they could face a fine of up to $500.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, better known as Swiftmud, tightened the restrictions in Hernando and Citrus in response to a worsening drought that has dried up lakes and rivers through the 16-county Swiftmud district. Other counties in Swiftmud's realm had previously faced the once-a-week watering limit.

Already, the phones at Swiftmud have been lit up with questions about the new rules. A hotline (1-800-848-0499) set up to explain the rules and to give people a place to report violators received 1,735 calls last week. Water shortage coordinator Lois Sorensen said three temporary workers had to be hired to handle the task.

"We're actually calling on staff from other department to make sure we have all the lines covered," Sorensen said. "At any given time we have six people on the phone."

Call volumes are expected to drop as people get more familiar with the restrictions.

While making the announcement, Swiftmud appealed to local governments and water suppliers to aggressively enforce the new rules.

In Hernando County, that will mean a combination of efforts by the Utilities Department, the Sheriff's Office and Code Enforcement Department, Adams said.

Adams recognizes that many residents might be reluctant to report neighbors. She suggests that people "try to be a good neighbor" and mention the new restrictions to folks on their street before calling in the violation.

But if that doesn't work, Adams said, county officials will be ready to step in.

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