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County eases into new water regulation

For now, officials are warning and educating water offenders about the new tighter rules in effect.

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2000


CRYSTAL RIVER -- Under the midafternoon sun Tuesday, a sprinkler sent streams of water over a lawn near Pete's Pier while leaving a growing puddle at the bottom of the driveway.

The scene is not what the Southwest Florida Water Management District had in mind when it imposed emergency water restrictions last week.

Depending on their address, Citrus residents are allowed to water just once a week for the next two months. But the district laid out strict hours for watering, which forbid running sprinklers and other irrigation systems during high evaporation periods between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

District officials expect a learning curve and had received more than 1,700 calls before the rules went into effect on Monday. Citrus County, like other jurisdictions within the 16-county district, is trying to gain firm footing after being asked to "aggressively" enforce the temporary regulations.

Word is getting out to Citrus sheriff's deputies that they should add enforcement of the restrictions to their list of duties, spokeswoman Ronda Hemminger Evan said Tuesday.

Violators can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. They may either challenge the charge in court or pay a $229 fine, she said.

But deputies still may opt, at least in the beginning, to warn offenders, as they have in the past under the old rules.

"Deputies are really just going to be educating people at this point, warning people and letting people know what the fine is," she said.

County Attorney Larry Haag said Tuesday that he is not aware of anyone being prosecuted for violating water use rules in the past.

Crystal River resident Denis Grillo, washing the window screens on his Kings Bay home Tuesday, said his scheduled watering date is Sunday. After watering his lawn and garden over the weekend, he said, he felt there was some leeway in the rules to keep the screens and windows clean.

Willie Cleveland, who has been mowing some properties in Kings Bay for about 10 years, said the rules were a bit confusing at first. Three weeks ago he picked up a chart listing the watering rules, but that was before Swiftmud's governing board took new action.

Lawns may begin to suffer as temperatures rise and weekly watering rules stay in place at least until June 30. He wondered how out-of-state property owners will find out about the restrictions, and whether they'll appreciate the potential effect when they return.

Asked if people are sticklers for the appearance of their lawns, Cleveland raised his eyebrows and said, "You better believe they are."

Swiftmud spokesman Mike Molligan on Tuesday clarified a variance in the new order for property owners served by Citrus County Utilities and Florida Water Services.

In the past, some subdivisions, such as Sugarmill Woods and Citrus Springs, have been on three different schedules. The arrangement prevented a loss in water pressure.

Those areas are still under once-weekly watering limits, but the watering days are different. For example, Sugarmill Woods property owners with addresses ending in 7, 8, 9 or zero can water on Monday.

Residents with addresses ending in 2, 4 or 6 can water on Tuesday. Those with addresses ending in 1, 3 or 5 can water on Sunday.

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