Still soaking from near-record rainfall levels in June, the agency that oversees water resources and conservation in West Central Florida eased up on its lawn watering restrictions Tuesday, and Tampa utility officials immediately adopted the loosened rules.
Tampa Water Department customers, as well as Temple Terrace residents and those in the unincorporated county, can begin twice-a-week lawn watering, switch on garden fountains and pressure clean driveways beginning today.
Meeting in Brooksville, the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District voted to lift its Phase II water shortage restrictions, which had called for once-a-week watering in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties.
The restrictions had been in place because of near-drought conditions that had parched the region for years.
They were lifted because of above-average rain in summer 2011, a forecast of more rain this summer, and 20 inches of rain in June, much of it from Tropical Storm Debby.
The district's rules are advisory and local governments have the option of retaining the Phase II regulations or following the district's recommendations.
Within hours of the announcement, the Tampa Water Department said it would follow the district's recommendation, effective today.
Homeowners in Tampa and the unincorporated county may irrigate their lawns and foliage using the following schedule:
Irrigation hours in Tampa remain unchanged; between midnight and 8 a.m. or between 6 p.m. and midnight on allowed days.
Other changes include:
Citations in Tampa are issued on first observance of a violation and no warnings are issued. Violations of the water-use restrictions may result in fines of up to $450 and mandatory court appearances.
Temple Terrace residents also can begin watering twice a week.
Under the city's rules, even-numbered addresses may water on Thursdays and/or Sundays and odd-numbered addresses may water on Wednesdays and/or Saturdays. Watering must be done before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. each day.
Water management district officials urged residents to continue the water conservation practices, saying that just because people can water twice a week doesn't mean the lawn needs it.
Residents should water only if lawns and landscapes are dry and should turn off irrigation systems after a rain or if rain is predicted. Some of the signs a lawn needs water include a blue-gray appearance, blades folded in half lengthwise and footprints remaining on the lawn several minutes after walking on it.