Despite the rain that usually accompanies winter’s cold fronts, annual rainfall in our area still is well below normal levels. Due to the lack of precipitation, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (aka Swiftmud) has increased its water restrictions across Tampa Bay — New Tampa and Wesley Chapel included.

According to a February 26 press release from Swiftmud, the water management district’s governing board voted to increase existing water restrictions for Tampa Bay, due to the lack of rainfall in January. The release says that our region’s rainfall currently is 3.5 inches below normal. Due to the lack of rain, Phase III water restrictions went into effect on March 13.

“For the last several months, we’ve watched the conditions decline,” said Paul Senft, chairman of Swiftmud’s governing board, in the release. “If we do not receive significant rainfall in the coming months, we may have to extend these restrictions into other areas of the District.”

These restrictions, which affect Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, will stay in effect until the end of July. Phase III water restrictions limit lawn watering to once per week, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., on the specific day, determined by address. However, hand watering of shrubbery or plants can be done any day, as long as it is done between the specified hours. In addition, homeowners associations must suspend any requirement to replace lawns, pressure wash or engage in activities that increase water use during this water shortage declaration.

“The order supersedes deed restrictions,” says Maggie Wilson of the Tampa Palms Community Development District (CDD) and Sanctuary at Tampa Palms Home Owner’s Association. “If you’ve been taking care of your lawn, it shouldn’t really be affected.”

Car washing also is limited to once per week under the new restrictions and decorative fountains may only be used for four hours per day.

According to the release, the increased restrictions come not only because of a lack of rainfall, but also because Tampa Bay Water (TBW), which supplies the water for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas County water utilities, as well as for the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg and New Port Richey, is relying on its desalination plant and regional wellfields as its main water supply while its C.W. Bill Young Reservoir undergoes a renovation.

For more info, including a chart explaining which days are acceptable for lawn watering by address, please visit SWFWMD.State.FL.US and click on “Water Restrictions.” — MW

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