Tampa City Council almost overturns lawn sprinkling ban

05/07/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Despite a lack of rain and continuing drought-like conditions in Tampa, the City Council today nearly overturned its prohibition on lawn irrigation. That bid failed, but the Council did vote to have the city’s Water Department study the issue and come back in two weeks, where they will vote again on possibly changing the ban.

New rules implemented a month ago ban lawn sprinkling in the city, the toughest restrictions in the bay area, if not the entire state.

But today, City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern asked the city’s Water Department Director, Brad Baird, to be prepared to study water usage and come back before the Council in two weeks.

Councilman Joseph Catano, bitter that his constituents in New Tampa can’t access the city’s reclaimed water, which is limited only in the South Tampa area, then proposed voting immediately on rescinding the ban.

The vote to overturn the ban lost, 4-3.

Earlier, Baird told the Council that on average, since the new restrictions went into place on April 3, the city has been saving 15 millions gallons or nearly 450 million gallons overall. And he also said that the city has had record low flows in the Hillsborough River for 50 straight days since March 19.

City Councilman Charlie Miranda appeared nearly apoplectic as he saw his colleagues come close to reversing the watering ban. And Miranda said a study of water consumption use shows that it didn’t come from the city’s main source, the Hillsborough River.

After it was reported earlier this week that city-owned fields and tennis courts had received an exemption from the watering ban, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio rescinded those exemptions, telling park officials to irrigate with reclaimed water.

Karen Palus is the ccity’s Parks and Recreation Director. She was asked by Councilwoman Mary Mulhern about that. Asked if the lack of being able to water existing turf in the city’s parks system could cost the city, Palus said yes.

Some Council members appeared to be hearing the growing complaints from citizens about the water restrictions.

Campbell Burton asked the Council to go to a every other week watering ban.

Councilwoman Gwen Miller said it was important not to lose perspective, saying she had already seen her grass go brown.

Currently, only homeowners on the city's reclaimed water system or with private wells can use sprinklers to water their lawns.

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