U.S. Water News Online
MIAMI -- South Florida water officials approved the region's severest water cutbacks ever to battle a record drought that is likely to continue for months.
The new limits, recently approved by the region's water board, further limit home lawn-watering to once a week and cut watering hours for golf courses, car washes, nurseries, and farmers.
It was the first time the water district imposed so-called Phase 3 restrictions, which aim to reduce water consumption by 35 to 45 percent.
Under the previous Phase 2 water-use limits, urban water use had fallen by 10 percent districtwide, well short of the goal of 20 to 30 percent. Those restrictions had, among other things, cut lawn-watering to twice a week.
Coral Gables homeowner Teri Leiva, 43, said she already has to re-sod her back yard. ``It's going to be worse,'' she said. ``How could they allow this to happen?''
Board members said they were concerned about shrinking water supplies and criticized residents for keeping the faucets flowing. Landscape watering accounts for half of urban water use in the 16-county South Florida Water Management District.
The restrictions began March 28 and cover the heavily populated southeastern region that includes West Palm Beach and Miami, as well as farming land around Lake Okeechobee.
Farmer John Alger said he's worried about the 900 acres of corn he has in the ground south of Miami. Already, he can't irrigate between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
``If they curtail it any more, then we've got some serious problems,'' Alger said. ``I won't be able to bring off a crop that I can harvest.''
Parts of Florida are heading into their fourth year of a severe drought as the driest months approach. Below-average rainfall is expected through April. Rainfall should return to normal during the traditional wet season, from June until November, forecasters said.
Last year was the driest on record for Florida, and much of the rest of the southern half of the state also remains parched and under watering bans.
Lake Okeechobee, the main water supply for surrounding towns and farming and the backup water supply for southeast Florida, is expected to reach a record low level by May.
Critics say the situation wouldn't be as less dire if water officials hadn't lowered the lake by two feet last May to restore its health. Water managers had expected a wet hurricane season, but it was drier than expected.
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