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Tampa to water-wasters: Here’s $$ to conserve

By Kevin Wiatrowski
Published: January 3, 2014

TAMPA — Tampa is expanding the rebate program it offered some of its biggest water customers last year to get them to reduce their water use.

The program last year focused on single-family customers who, between drinking and sprinkling, used at least 15,000 gallons of water each month, about 10 percent of the city’s water customers.

This year, the program is expanding to include commercial customers such as restaurants, apartment buildings and laundromats.

The deal is straightforward: reduce your water use, and get a check from the city. How you do that is up to you.

The city is offering advisers who can help people decide what options might work best for them, from replacing an old toilet to fixing leaky sprinkler lines.

Anyone who want to take the challenge must register with the city by Jan. 31. Registration materials are at

Rebates are based on how much you conserve between February and July. Save 5 percent over last year’s water bill, and you’ll get back $50. Save 20 percent, and you’ll get back $500.

Commercial users max out at a $2,500 rebate.

Last year, 20 residential customers -- about 20 percent of the biggest users -- took the city up on its offer, saving an average of 538 gallons a day and saving between $191 and $1,700 on their water bills over the six month period.

The city gave $7,000 in rebates altogether, according to Ali Glisson, spokeswoman for Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Nine residential customers got the maximum $500 rebate.

Tampa gets its water from the Hillsborough River, which typically reaches its lowest point in late May or early June. The conservation program operates during Florida’s dry season, when water demand is high and supply is low. On average, more than half of all household water use in Tampa goes to water the lawn. That’s because the city’s ability to distribute treated wastewater for irrigation is limited to a few South Tampa neighborhoods.

As a result, irrigation can put a strain on the city’s water supplies as warm weather encourages people to water their lawns.

Many of those getting rebates last year cut their water bills by cutting back on lawn irrigation, said Eric Weiss, the water department’s chief engineer.

“That’s probably their biggest opportunity to reduce,” Weiss said. “That’s something that can be modified easily.”

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Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO