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Local water scofflaws will be fined

Southwest Florida Water Management District today escalated watering restrictions throughout much of the region, including Manatee County. The measure means Manatee, along with other counties in the district, will begin imposing fines on property owners who violate the restrictions.

Currently, property owners are allowed to run irrigation systems only one day per week. Under the new Phase III restrictions, Manatee will be required to fine property owners who use irrigation systems during unauthorized days. First-time violators could be subject to $110 in fines and administrative fees. A second violation could result in a $210 fine. A third violation could cost $550 and a potential court appearance.

Most watering violations are related to irrigation of lawns, but other restrictions are in effect and are subject to fines, as well.

Terri Behling, SWFWMD’s community affairs program manager, told Manatee County commissioners on Feb. 17 that Manatee residents already do a good job of conservation. But the district has little choice but to heighten restrictions given the current dry conditions.

“In Phase III, we’ll stay at once-a-week watering restrictions and the hours remain the same,” Behling said. “We’re asking everyone to be conscious of your water usage. We’re asking that the county beef up enforcement, your ability to go after those who have been reported as violating restrictions.”

Amy Merrill, Manatee County Utilities public affairs liaison, pointed out that local water levels are slightly below historical levels due to the drought. But Lake Manatee has sufficient capacity to meet the water needs of Manatee residents well into the future.

"We are fortunate that Manatee County residents have, for the most part, adopted water conservation as a part of their everyday routine,” Merrill said. “However, the drought has a domino effect in terms of how it relates to us, necessitating our need to enhance conservation measures even more until the rainy season begins."

For more information, call Amy Merrill at (941) 798-6745 or click on the Utilities tab at www.mymanatee.org.

To learn more about the Phase III watering restricitons, visit Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Web site www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/

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