June 24, 2008

Despite Rain, District To Mull Extending Watering Restrictions

By Neil Johnson, Tampa Tribune, Fla.

Jun. 23--TAMPA -- Rainfall the past two weeks has eased the wildfire threat and turned lawns from crispy to lush but hasn't been enough for water managers to recommend lifting the once-weekly watering restrictions in West Central Florida.

The staff of the Southwest Florida Water Management District will recommend to board members Tuesday that rules limiting homeowners to watering lawns once a week be extended to Sept. 30.

The district board imposed the rules Jan. 9, 2007, and has extended them three times since. The board is set to review the restrictions at its monthly meeting in Brooksville.

Even with the summer rain pattern established, there hasn't been enough rain to erase a prolonged drought that has gripped the state for two years, the district staff say in the recommendation.

The staff's recommendation does not mean the water management board will agree to extend the restrictions.

Effects of the rainfall are mixed.

Rivers and lakes in West Central Florida remain low.

Lakes in the Tampa Bay area are two feet below the lowest point expected for June and more than five feet low in the Lake Wales ridge.

Flow in the Peace River is about 20 cubic feet per second, compared with the about 200 cubic feet per second normal for this time of year.

On the other hand, rain this weekend sparked minor flooding of the Manatee River.

Also, a measurement of wildfire danger -- where 800 is a desert and 0 is saturated -- fell from 561 in Hillsborough County on June 10 to 257 as of today.


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