Tampa hopes to woo citizens to reclaimed water

12/06/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The Southeast is going through a historic drought right now. Although the Tampa Bay is suffering, it is not as ominous as conditions in South Florida or in Atlanta.

Nevertheless, conservation is becoming the mantra throughout the country; in Tampa, one way to do that is to improve the distribution of reclaimed water for irrigation and other non-potable uses.

The city of Tampa introduced a reclaimed water project years ago, but its paltry compliance rate has been a minor source of embarrassment.

Now, the city is aggressively trying to expand the program as the city’s Public Works and Utilities Director Steve Daignault announced today.

Known as the STAR project when it was introduced earlier this decade to residents on Davis Islands, Hyde Park and the West Shore business district, only 5,300 or so citizens initially signed up for the $56-million project.

Dagnault says the city has plans to connect reclaimed water to other parts of the city, and to some of its biggest customers, such as Tampa International Airport, the University of Tampa area, and along Bayshore Boulevard. And he talked of incentives in getting those high-end users online.

Councilman Charlie Miranda said he had no problem with offering discounts to large customers, but wants those busineseses to sign up for a certain amount of gallons of reclaimed water, based on what they’re using now. Miranda also said the city needed to canvass neighborhoods in Tampa to determine the interest amongst residents for the product.

Councilman John Dingfelder said he believes the city’s water department needs to set goals and objectives for the reclaimed water program. Dingfelder said he thinks the city should seriously consider it in a few years time.

City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern said she thought spending money on increasing the accessibility of reclaimed water throughout the city was important – but expensive. She said she wants to talk about conservation.

City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena said that there are neighborhoods in Tampa that have homeowner covenants that require a certain amount of grass.

City Attorney David Smith said the city could not enforce such an ordinance, but said they could work with the Florida League of Cities on an ordinance that would encourage xeriscaping

Miranda said the environment is ripe for reclaimed water to take off.

Another incentive for Tampa residents to consider reclaimed water is the price; it has decreased from $1.34 to $1.20 for each unit of water used in the past couple of months.

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