Citizens: Hillsborough should impose stricter water limits

03/18/09 Mitch E. Perry
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The ongoing water crisis in the Tampa Bay area continues to grow more serious.

With the Bill Young Reservoir dried up, and the desalination plant not operating at full capacity, the area is now relying heavily on ground water.

This morning during the public hearing portion of Hillsborough County Commission’s meeting, citizens demanded that the Board go further than what has been called for in terms of conservation by the Southwest Water Florida Management District (Swiftmud).

Tampa citizen Chip Thomas said he was boggled by the lack of punitive action by Swiftmud regarding water restrictions, and said simply grass is not sustainable in Florida. He also exhorted the Board to go beyond Swiftmud in setting restrictions.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe expressed frustration with the continuing problems at what was supposed to be a reliable supplier of drinking water – the desalination plant at Big Bend.

The C.W. Bill Young Reservoir has also disappointed by running dry.

Bart Weiss is with the county’s Water Resource Service. He said the current drought, as well as cracks in the structure discovered last fall have contributed to its problems, and he criticized Tampa Bay Water officials.

Commissioner Jim Norman said it was imperative for Hillsborough to work with Pasco County and the city of Tampa to do an analysis of the current conditions of wetlands, lakes and other impacts right now.

Tampa Bay Water has blamed the architect and developers who built the reservoir for its construction defects. But Commissioner Norman said the blame should also go to others who he did not name.

Meanwhile, Tampa is considering tightening water restrictions beyond those mandated by Swiftmud. The St. Petersburg Times reports that the city’s administrator of utilities, Steve Dagnault, says Tampa might eventually ban outdoor watering altogether. Dagnault will ask the City Council to discuss such measures tomorrow.

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