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New weekend ban holds water

By DAVID KARP

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2000


TAMPA -- Somebody was following the rules Sunday.

The county's demand for water dropped by about 26-million gallons on the first Sunday after the Hillsborough County Commission banned lawn watering on weekends.

The county's water department pumped about 55.2-million gallons of water Sunday, down to a normal level from a record 81.2-million gallons the previous Sunday.

"I wasn't expecting it to be that good," water conservation coordinator Norman Davis said.

It could get even better for residents later this week.

A county conservation committee has asked the commission to give residents more time during the day to water their lawns.

On Wednesday, the commission will consider adding four more hours of daylight -- 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon -- to the current restrictions.

Right now, residents in unincorporated Hillsborough may water their lawns only one time, Monday through Friday, depending on the last digit in each address -- either in the morning before 8 a.m. or in the evening after 6 p.m. They may not water both in the morning and in the evening, and that rule won't change. The new rules would affect only people who live outside the city limits of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City.

Why ease up now?

Water officials say people will actually use less water if they have more time during the day to see how their sprinkler systems work.

"This way, you can see when you are eating breakfast (if) there is a broken head," department spokesman John Fischer said.

The city of Tampa doesn't plan any changes yet. Like the county, the city saw its water consumption drop on Sunday. Residents used 90.7-million gallons of water, a reduction of 6-million gallons from the previous Sunday.

All the rule changes, though, have plenty of people confused.

Hundreds called the city water department Monday asking whether their outdoor irrigation day had changed, said India Williams, consumer affairs director ofr the Tampa Water Department.

The city's water restrictions haven't changed.

But the day after county commissioners approved new rules for unincorporated Hillsborough last week, the city department put three people on the phones to help out the regular operator. One additional employee worked the phones Monday.

"Sometimes I have even been caught off guard," said Lisa Saviola, a Realtor who lives in Pebble Creek, a subdivision in the unincorporated county on the Tampa-Hillsborough line.

"Someone will say, "Hey they didn't change that,"' she said.

In a related action Monday, the region's largest water utility voted unanimously to waive its normal procurement regulations to build a giant siphon to relieve the stressed Hillsborough River, Tampa's principal source of drinking water.

Tampa Bay Water obtained permission last Friday from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the region's water regulator, to sink pumps and build pipelines from a 200-foot wide, 200-foot deep sinkhole on district property on Morris Bridge Road to feed the river, which is flowing at an all-time low.

The project could cost $150,000 or more and will be paid for by the city of Tampa. The siphoning of up to 15-million gallons a day will continue until the rain begins.

- Times staff writers Steve Huettel and Jean Heller contributed to this report. David Karp can be reached at (813) 226-3376 or karp@sptimes.com.

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