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Hillsborough County seeking compromise on water rules


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2000

TAMPA -- Water experts and representatives of the greenery industry will meet in coming weeks to try to hash out a compromise on stricter watering restrictions.

Michael McWeeny, director of the county's water department, told the Hillsborough County Commission on Wednesday that if the drought persists, Tampa Bay Water could soon exceed the 158-million gallons a day it is permitted to draw from its 11 well fields.

"We're going to have to tighten up someplace," McWeeny said.

An ordinance amendment before the commission Wednesday would have stripped the current exemption that allows the watering in of pesticides more than once a week, and would have limited watering waivers for the so-called "establishment period" meant to let greenery to take root.

Currently, watering restrictions in unincorporated Hillsborough County are waived for 60 days for people planting new lawns and plants, provided they water before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. The proposal would cut that period to 30 days, and then allow watering only on odd-numbered days or even-numbered days, depending on the address.

McWeeny said the new restrictions could save 1.5-million gallons of water a day.

Hugh M. Gramling, executive director of the Tampa Bay Wholesale Growers, told the commission he opposed the proposed new restrictions, as did his industry. He said the 60-day watering waiver for new greenery is necessary. Instead of slashing it, he suggested, the county should enforce existing restrictions more stringently.

Commissioner Stacey Easterling said she worried about the ordinance's effect on small businesses, while Commissioner Ronda Storms wondered whether to explore contracting with a private company to pursue water scofflaws.

The commission decided to postpone the vote until county water experts and greenery representatives could meet in an effort to find a middle ground.

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