Bay Area Drought Affects UT

The University of Tampa campus is known for its park and beautiful landscaping, which begs the question, how will the school maintain its aesthetic appeal with intensified water restrictions?

Current restrictions allow sprinkler watering one day a week for the Tampa Bay area, but beginning April 3, all sprinkler watering will be limited to hand watering in order to control the current water shortage.

‘Current restrictions allow us to water one day a week per area, so we water part of the campus on Tuesday and part on Sunday. A provision in the restrictions allows us to water the sports fields twice a week as a safety measure,’ Tim Purdy, UT’s grounds and facilities manager, said.

‘All grass has overhead irrigation, which is a sprinkler device currently restricted. But for most of our plant material we have a drip tube which is a low volume irrigation not restricted now.’ Purdy said that even the drip irrigation could be restricted on April 3.

The mainstream news media is not reporting the problem accurately, Purdy said.
‘The critical shortage exists with potable water, which is supplied by the reservoir and desalinization plants. The reservoir is cracking and not holding enough water, and the desalinization plants are only operating at about half capacity’.

However, these are not necessarily the same sources of water used for sprinkler or irrigation systems.

‘Water for campus flora comes from permitted wells, which are not as critically low right now. Because the shortage is with potable water, the main issue is that they don’t want people watering lawns with potable water right now,’ Purdy said.

Tampa Bay has been in a drought for three years. The use of water from wells will continue to deplete water sources.

Water from permitted wells comes from the aquifers.

Periods of drought most often mean that the amount of water the aquifers contain is lower than usual because of a lack of rainfall. Even the use of permitted wells is using up water that is not necessarily abundant right now.

‘The twist for the sprinkler watering is that the emergency ordinance that will be in effect on April 3 is not totally written out yet. There could be some changes or exceptions to sprinkler watering from permitted wells. The most critical shortage is with the potable water, which does not come from the same source that we use to water the lawns’ Purdy said.

He assured that the university was following all watering protocol.

‘The university is very high profile, so we have been following all the rules. We will not be doing anything illegal’.

Jillian Randel can be reached at

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