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February 4, 2009

District introduces new color-coded map to identify water shortage levels

Despite some recent rainfall, a continuing drought is keeping the 16 counties of the Southwest Florida Water Management District on a Water Shortage Alert. The District identifies four possible levels of water shortage, beginning with “moderate” and increasing in intensity through “severe,” “extreme” and “critical.”

With river flows, aquifer levels, and lake levels remaining far below normal, the region’s water shortage status ranges from “severe” to “extreme.” The District’s color-coded Water Shortage Alert Map graphically identifies the status for each county in the District.

Tampa Bay Region
Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties
Extreme (Red) Alert
The tri-county Tampa Bay area continues on an extreme water shortage alert. On a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 representing the lowest and 100 the highest, current river flows are hovering around the 3rd percentile. Aquifer levels have dropped below normal, and lakes are averaging more than a foot and a half below the lowest normal readings. As of Jan. 26, Tampa Bay Water’s 15-billion-gallon reservoir, which supplies the Tampa Bay area, was down to 860 million gallons of water, with about five months of the dry season remaining.

The area remains under the District’s Modified Phase III (or Extreme) Water Shortage restrictions approved by the District’s Governing Board in October. In addition to continuing to restrict lawn watering to one-day-per-week, the Phase III order calls for local governments to strictly enforce the rules. Additional restrictions include:

  • Restricting the new construction and turfgrass replacement establishment period to 30 days total. On days 1-15, beginning the day of installation, the new or replacement turfgrass may be watered every day of the week. On days 16-30, the new or replacement turfgrass may be watered approximately every other day.
  • Reducing the 60-day allowance for new plant establishment (other than sod and other forms of new turfgrass). During days 31-60, plants and shrubs may be watered approximately every other day.
  • Restricting the time for hand-watering or micro-irrigation for non-lawn landscaping to before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
  • Reducing the time aesthetic fountains and waterfalls may operate from eight hours to four hours per day.
  • Limiting the use of unattended line flushing by water utilities.
  • Requiring water utilities and other local enforcement officials to increase their enforcement efforts, including requirements to respond to citizen complaints and issue citations without having first issued a warning.

In addition to declaring the Modified Phase III Water Shortage, the District has taken a series of emergency measures including:

  • Allowing Tampa Bay Water to increase withdrawals from the Tampa Bypass Canal to help meet the city of Tampa’s potable water demand.
  • Allowing increased withdrawals from the Alafia River when sufficient flows are available.
  • Testing the possibility of using the Morris Bridge Sinkhole as a potential temporary water supply.

During the cooler winter months, the District is also urging residents to consider skipping a week of lawn irrigation, especially if it has just rained. Lawns go dormant during the winter months and don’t need as much water. With outdoor irrigation accounting for as much as 50 percent of residential water usage, skipping a week of water can result in a significant water savings.

Remaining Counties (see map)
Severe (Orange) Alert
The remaining 13 counties in the District continue on a severe water shortage alert. River flows, aquifer and lake levels remain significantly below normal. The area remains under the District’s Modified Phase II (or Severe) Water Shortage restrictions approved by the District’s Governing Board in January 2007. District water restrictions include limiting lawn watering to a maximum of one day per week. Residents are urged to continue conserving water indoors and outdoors of their homes and businesses. Residents should also consider turning off their irrigation systems this week due to the recent rainfall.

In addition to declaring the Modified Phase II Water Shortage, the District has taken a series of emergency measures including:

  • Allowing the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority to increase withdrawals from the Peace River.
  • Allowing the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority to withdraw groundwater from its Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wellfields.
  • Allowing the Englewood Water District to increase groundwater withdrawals to provide extra water to Charlotte County through a recently constructed interconnection.

For more information about watering restrictions in your area, contact your local utility, or visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/restrictions/.

 
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