U.S. Water News Online
LARGO, Fla. -- Want lower water bills without giving up
that lush green lawn? In Largo the answer could be reclaimed water.
City officials are polishing a master plan that seeks to connect
every single-family home in Largo by 2014. The plan awaits final
approval by the commission, but could begin later this year.
Homeowners would be asked to sign a petition in their neighborhood
agreeing to pay a one-time user fee of $125 per household. Officials
say that fee, along with increases in sewer rates, will cover the
12-year project's tab of $50-million.
Residents could save buckets of cash using the service over time,
the city says. Once hooked up, customers have access to an unlimited
supply of reclaimed water for irrigation, paying only the current
flat rate of $10 per month. All that in an area where drinking water
continues to be scarce.
"Depending on how much you water, you could cut water bills by
almost a third," said City Manager Steve Stanton. "But the issue is
to save potable water."
Largo has offered reclaimed water since the early 1980s but has
struggled selling communities on the concept. Currently the city has
spent nearly $22-million with only about 1,200 customers.
Mike Staffopoulos, an engineer in the city's public works
department, said the new plan would put the heavy lifting on the legs
of Largo officials.
"The last strategy relied on the residents to fill out their own
petitions and submit them to the city," Staffopoulos said. "This
process will be a city-driven petition, going out to specific
neighborhoods (at a time)."
And they have established a system for easy distribution, he says.
His office recently divided the city's 10,500 single-family homes
into 70 neighborhoods and ranked them based on four factors:
If approved, the city would distribute petitions to six
neighborhoods per year. Each homeowner would have 60 days to return
the petitions to the city. A neighborhood would get the water if 60
percent of its residents sign up.
"If they are unable to get the signatures, or uninterested, they
fall off the list," Stanton said.
Staffopoulos said a public workshop to answer questions and
explain the plan should be scheduled in the next two months. He hopes
people come with interest.
"We are doing more of the legwork up front, to expand the system
in a very rational and cost-effective manner," he said.
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