Reclaimed water users in 10 neighborhoods face new rules and the prospect of fines up to $500.
By JAMES THORNER
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 21, 2001
WESLEY CHAPEL -- Reclaimed water began as worthless sewage treatment plant effluent but during the drought has turned into a precious household commodity.
It's so precious that Pasco County homeowners now face fines of up to $500 for sprinkling their lawns with reclaimed water on the wrong day.
Starting July 1, the county's Utilities Department will revamp its lawn irrigation schedule for about 5,000 customers in 10 Wesley Chapel and Land O'Lakes neighborhoods.
The old schedule apportions reclaimed water twice a week by neighborhood. The new system rations water based on the last number of a home's address:
Houses ending with 0 or 1 may use reclaimed water Wednesday and Friday, 2 or 3 on Thursday and Sunday, 4 or 5 on Monday and Friday, 6 or 7 on Tuesday and Saturday and 8 or 9 on Monday and Wednesday.
Under the new rules, watering is restricted from midnight to 8 a.m. or from 6 p.m. to midnight on the designated watering days.
Ten neighborhoods are affected: Meadow Pointe, Northwood, Lakes of Northwood, Brookside, Grand Oaks, Saddlebrook Village West, Stagecoach Village, Quail Hollow, Lexington Oaks and Sable Ridge.
Pasco Utilities chief Doug Bramlett said the biggest reason for the change, which county commissioners approved Tuesday, was the cost of monitoring the neighborhood-by-neighborhood watering system.
"I'm spending 200 hours a week in overtime sending guys out at three in the morning to turn valves on and turn valves off," Bramlett said.
But absent the utilities workers to cut off reclaimed water, the county plans to boost enforcement of sprinkling restrictions.
As part of an emergency water conservation ordinance in April, Pasco quadrupled fines for illegal watering. Fines are $30 for a first offense, $250 for a second and $500 for a third offense.
The fines are aimed mostly at potable water customers, but the ordinance also applies to reclaimed water.
"We hope they work with their neighbors and not abuse the system," Bramlett said.
Bramlett promised to mail or hand out notices in the affected neighborhoods by July 1. At the insistence of county commissioners, enforcement will not begin until July 14, when a two-week grace period expires.
Meadow Pointe resident Pat Asklar, who sits on her neighborhood's community development district board, said the new schedule, which requires mostly night watering, is a "real pain."
But she said the fines might work to reduce the problem of low sprinkler pressure from too many people watering at once.
"If it makes people a little more honest, that's good," Asklar said. "But I don't know how easy it is to check on these people."