June 25, 2008

Swiftmud Extends Restrictions On Watering Lawns

By Neil Johnson, Tampa Tribune, Fla.

Jun. 25--TAMPA -- The once-weekly watering rules in effect for 18 months will go on until September.

The Southwest Water Management District on Tuesday approved a three-month extension of rules designed to help the water system recover from two years of drought.

The vote was unanimous, and several board members said that with the summer rains well-established, there's no need for homeowners to turn on their sprinklers.

The district's governing board cut watering from twice a week to once a week in January 2007. Tuesday's extension is the fourth time since then that the board has considered lifting the rule but sided with its staff to keep it in place.

Rainfall the past 24 months is 17 inches below normal, and lack of rain in April and May erased any gain from a wetter than normal winter and early spring.

The 16 counties the water district covers need the summer's rain to help lakes, rivers and the aquifer recover.

All of West Central Florida would need above average rain to completely emerge from the drought, said Granville Kinsman, director of hydrologic data for the district.

Lakes and rivers remain low for the end of June, with the Peace River flowing at about a 10th the rate it should this time of year. Lakes across Hillsborough County are still about 2 feet lower than the lowest level expected for the end of June.

Continuation of the restrictions leaves residents in West Central Florida with some of the tightest watering rules in the state. Areas around Lake Okeechobee and a few small cities are restricted to once a week.

The rest of the state is allowed to water more often.

Though watering is limited to one day a week, specific days of the week vary according to jurisdictions.

Check the Southwest Florida Water Management District site for information on watering days and hours: .fl.us/conservation/restrictions/local.html.

Reporter Neil Johnson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 259-7731.


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