No mandate for reclaimed water in South Tampa

04/16/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Two weeks after Tampa’s ban on watering of lawns went into effect, the City Council today rejected new measures that would mandate residents use reclaimed water for irrigation, and place large financial penalties on excessive potable water users.

However, city officials said they are considering such sanctions that they will introduce at an upcoming workshop on water late next month.

Dave Moore from the Southwest Water Florida Management District (Swiftmud), addressed the Council as well. The District, which encompasses 16 counties, including Hillsborough and Pasco, have limited lawn sprinkling to one day a week, as well as banning residential car and pressure-washing. He said people who can irrigate once a week, should not if they don’t have to.

And Moore advocated that the City Council and other local municipalities should begin targeting high-end users.

A disappointment for years in Tampa has been the lack of participation with citizens using the city’s reclaimed water system, which is only available in South Tampa.

The pipes reach more than 8,000 homes and businesses in that part of the city, but fewer than half, or around 31,000 households have signed on, which would allow them to bypass the current regulations banning irrigation.

That led Councilman John Dingfelder to propose a motion that he admitted, might sound harsh, but he said was necessary in these times.

Dingfelder said his proposal would also include a waiver for those claiming financial hardship. The costs to get reclaim vary, but in most cases costs several hundred dollars.

His ordinance would only be applicable to those who irrigate, and would give residents until the end of the year to sign up.

Council member Mary Mulhern, who lives in the area where reclaimed is available but doesn’t personally irrigate, said she didn’t like the sound of the proposal.

Usage has gone down dramatically in just the last two weeks in Tampa since the ban on lawn sprinkling went into effect.

But Dingfelder said it’s offensive to him that thousands of people in South Tampa continue to irrigate with potable water when another alternative is available. And Dingfelder, who opposed the ban on all lawn sprinkling, urged his colleagues to continue in that bold vein and join him in mandating that South Tampa residents use reclaimed water.

But the councilman failed to gain even one other vote, and the proposal died. Unphased, he then advised his colleagues to pick up on the suggestion by Swiftmud’s Dave Moore to begin to enforce financial penalties for high-end users.

City Councilman Charlie Miranda, who has been a leading critic of Dingfelder for not supporting the ban on lawn sprinkling, said he couldn’t believe his ears.

Dingfelder’s second motion did not win approval, but city officials say they’ll bring up the matter of possibly fining heavy water users when they convene for a workshop with the Council late last month.

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