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New restrictions cut down on water use

The county's third set of water rules in three weeks prompted many phone calls from confused residents.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- New watering restrictions to cope with severe drought prompted a flood of calls to Hernando County government offices Friday and Monday.

The restrictions also brought the intended result: lower water use and steady water pressure throughout the county Sunday. A week ago, some Spring Hill residents complained they could not flush toilets -- a prelude to potential problems for firefighting and water quality.

"We got what we were looking for," county utilities director Kay Adams said Monday.

Specifically, water use Sunday dropped by about 900,000 gallons from a week earlier in west Hernando and 300,000 gallons in southwest Hernando, the county's largest watering areas. Florida Water Services, which serves that region, had no complaints about pressure, which was "normal" for the weekend.

The county's third set of water rules in as many weeks created much consternation and confusion nonetheless.

"My phone was ringing off the hook," one office worker said, adding, "We didn't get any cranky people."

Many residents called the county vainly seeking permission to sprinkle their lawns off the newly approved schedule, which does not include weekends. They said they had last watered May 7 and the new rules would force them to wait close to two weeks before sating their parched lawns again.

"Sorry," was the standard response.

Some phoned from out-of-town to plead for leniency, as they had set sprinkler timers before heading north for the summer and could not make changes. The county set up a "do not cite" list for such situations, and had five names on the list by early Monday.

Others professed not to understand the rules and wanted clarification from a human, not a recording, letter or televised interview. And several reported violators, mostly neighbors.

The county Code Enforcement Department received 201 calls Friday, most dealing with the watering rules, director Frank McDowell III said. The Sheriff's Office, which enforces the rules on weekends, saw a marked increase in calls, too, spokeswoman Deanna Dammer said.

The city of Brooksville also received several calls seeking advice on when to water, Code Enforcement officer Linda Sidor said.

"I've also been looking, and we've been getting phone calls from neighbors," she said. "But we really haven't had many violators."

Brooksville has issued only two warnings for improper watering since mid-April, compared with 624 in the unincorporated county. The county issued 16 warnings over the weekend, and several departments, including Animal Control, Utilities and Code Enforcement, will continue to patrol for violators.

Adams said she did not expect water use to decrease for the full week, after all homes have had their watering day. In fact, she said, if everyone sprinkles for the same amount of time as usual on the spread-out schedule, the county might see an increase in water use because flow should be better.

She encouraged residents to shorten the length of time they irrigate their lawns.

The new rules, approved by the Southwest Florida Water Management District last week, remain in effect until June 30. The county has a 20 percent chance of rain today and the weekend, said Richard Rude, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

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