Water restrictions may be coming for Tampa Bay residents
TAMPA The agency that oversees the Tampa Bay area’s water supply could tighten watering restrictions because of an unusually dry winter. The Southwest Water Management District’s board of directors will vote Tuesday on the measure, which will affect residents in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. The restrictions could limit the watering of lawns to one day a week until rainfall and river levels increase, officials said. Currently, Hillsborough and City of Tampa residents are limited to watering twice a week before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Pinellas County has similar irrigation restrictions.The issue was brought up Feb. 18 at a board meeting of Tampa Bay Water, the agency that supplies drinking water to 2.3 million people in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Below-average rainfall and a reservoir under repair prompted Tampa Bay Water to recommend more watering restrictions to Swiftmud, board member Charlie Miranda said. “This is the time of the year when you have no rain or little rain,” Miranda said. “Something needs to be done.” Compounding the water shortage is the ongoing repairs to cracks in the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir, Miranda said.The reservoir, which stored water from the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay Bypass Canal, was drained in January for repairs. The structural problems that caused the cracks won’t be fixed until next year. When full, the above-ground structure with 50-foot tall walls holds 15.5 billion gallons of water that could be used during droughts. And it’s been drier than usual, with Hillsborough getting only a total of 5.6 inches of rain since late September, said Granville Kinsman, a hydrologist for the water management district. “We should have had 10 inches of rainfall by now,” Kinsman said. Low rainfall also means that river and ground water levels have also decreased, he said. The levels of the Withlacoochee River, Hillsborough River and Peace River —which feeds water into the region — decreased to below-normal levels last month, a district report said. Warm weather also could cause residents to start using more water earlier than usual. “Spring looks like it came early,” Kinsman said. “People are going out and buying plants and flowers. And they’ll need water.” The district’s governing board meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday at its Sarasota service office, 6750 Fruitville Road. The meeting also will be streamed live on the district’s website at www.swfwmd.state.fl.us.