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Pinellas County
Aquifer levels continue to fall
Water woes worsen as drought continues
Article published on Sunday, March 8, 2009
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The March 5 U.S. Drought Meter report shows that Pinellas County is within an area under D2 Drought- Severe conditions. The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for March through May calls for conditions in the area to persist or intensify.
PINELLAS COUNTY - The latest report from The Southwest Florida Water Management District shows aquifer levels are continuing to fall.

According to the district’s March 6 Aquifer Resource Weekly Update, the central aquifer, which is a water source for the Tampa Bay region, is down to a negative 1.69 feet. Last week, the aquifer was at negative 1.65 feet. The normal range is between 0 and 6 feet.

Aquifers are underground layers of rock and sand that hold water.  In southwest Florida, more than 80 percent of the water supply comes from aquifers.

Rainfall continues below normal with only .16 of an inch reported through the first week of March. Rainfall for January and February was 3 inches. Historically, the region receives 5.42 inches during the first two months of the year.

For the past three years, rainfall has been below the historic average of just over 52.5 inches. In 2008, the central region recorded 46.64 inches; 41.11 in 2007 and 43.13 in 2006. Rainfall was slightly below the average in 2005 with 51.62 inches recorded.

The March 5 U.S. Drought Meter report shows that Pinellas County is within an area under D2 Drought- Severe conditions. The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for March through May calls for conditions in the area to persist or intensify.

Because of the ongoing drought, the water district enacted Phase III “Extreme” water restrictions in Charlotte, DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.  Under these restrictions utilities are required to issue citations only, not warnings.  The Phase III restrictions remain in effect until June 30.

Tom Crandall, director of Pinellas County Utilities, explained the new restrictions to the Board of Pinellas County Commissioners on March 3. Crandall said the new restrictions include consideration of a drought surcharge on high water users and placing water restrictions on reclaimed water, among others.

He said a proposed ordinance up for public review at the March 17 board of commissioners meeting would address the need for reclaimed water restrictions.

He said an addition of a drought surcharge would be considered when Utilities evaluates new water rates this summer. He said staff would look at stepped up rates for those with above average water use.

The new restrictions also require restaurants to only serve water upon request.

Commissioner Susan Latvala said everything possible needed to be done to conserve water. She said Pinellas County officials were in the minority urging the water district to impose its highest level of water restrictions. She said citizens in Pinellas County were responding to the need to conserve, but others were still behind.

She said currently water demand was down due to the fact that fewer tourists are here and less people are using water because they can’t afford to pay their bills.

“We need to go to the stricter regulations,” she said. “Ground and desalinated water is all we will have after mid-March when the reservoir is depleted. Pumping more ground water is controversial.”
Article published on Sunday, March 8, 2009
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