SFWMD Works with Sod Industry to Save Water

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board voted Dec. 16 to modify the tightened turfgrass restrictions for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, which will allow builders to sod and residents to replace lawns under a specific set of conditions.

District staff met with members of the sod industry last week to discuss solutions to the extreme water shortage in the Tampa Bay area as well as the serious economic conditions affecting the sod industry. Based on suggestions by the sod industry, District staff recommended the Governing Board modify both the new sod and turfgrass renovation restrictions.

"We are experiencing two serious conditions: the extreme water shortage in the Tampa Bay area and the dramatic downturn in the economy," said Richard Owen, District deputy executive director. "We met with the sod industry and believe we’ve come up with a solution that will continue to save water while allowing the sod industry to remain in business."

The modifications apply to both new construction and lawn replacement (sod, plugs, and other turfgrass material.) The changes 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. Unless otherwise specified by a local ordinance, even-numbered addresses may only water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Odd-numbered addresses may only water on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

The Governing Board voted at its October meeting to tighten water restrictions for all of Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties through June 30, 2009. The Governing Board voted to enact the additional measures at the request of Tampa Bay Water, the region’s wholesale water supplier. Tampa Bay Water requested the District’s assistance because its water supplies have not returned to pre-drought conditions.

The Hillsborough River reservoir, the main water supply for the city of Tampa, is near historic record lows for this time of year. The Alafia River is so low that it is providing very little water to meet public supply needs. Tampa Bay Water’s C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir currently has about 3 billion gallons in storage and Tampa Bay Water estimates that if the region does not receive above average rainfall January through March, the reservoir will be depleted by April 2009.

In addition to continuing to restrict lawn watering to one-day-per-week, the tightened restrictions continue to include the following for Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties:

  • Reducing the 60-day allowance for new plant (non-sod) establishment. During days 31-60, plants and shrubs may be watered three days per week. Unless otherwise specified by a local ordinance, even-numbered addresses may water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Odd-numbered addresses may be water on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

  • Reducing the time aesthetic fountains and waterfalls may operate from eight hours to four hours per day.

  • Restricting the time for hand-watering or micro-irrigation for non-lawn landscaping to before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

  • 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.

    One-day-per-week watering restrictions remain in effect for the District’s entire 16-county region. Residents should check with their local government or water utility for their designated watering day.

  • Unless your city or county has stricter hours in effect, properties under two acres in size may only water before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

  • Variances are available if a property proposes an acceptable alternative irrigation plan (such as splitting a large property into two pieces and assigning a different day to each piece).

  • Water utilities are required to promote water conservation, conduct a system water audit, and take action based on the results of the audit.

  • Water utilities and other local enforcement officials must respond to District referrals and regularly report enforcement activity.

  • Phase II restrictions continue to apply to other water uses, such as agricultural and industrial activities.

For more information about water restrictions or water conservation, please visit the District’s Web site www.WaterMatters.org/drought or call 1-800-423-1476, extension 4498, during normal business hours.

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