Running out of water: Managers say the reservoir has run dry

Last Edited: Sunday, 15 Mar 2009, 7:50 PM EDT
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TAMPA - The C.W. Bill Young Reservoir covers 1,100 acres and can hold up to 15 billion gallons of water.

Managers say it has run dry.

"From a water supply standpoint, it is, in effect, empty," according to Tampa Bay Water general manager Gerold Seeber.

The reservoir is supposed to be the major source of drinking water for the Bay Area. The fact that it's dry should come as no surprise. Late last month, the executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District made a dire prediction.

"This is an extreme water shortage. The Bill Young Reservoir is going to be empty in two or three weeks. Our two major rivers are at historic lows for this time of year," David Moore said.

Moore made that prediction shortly after the SWFWMD board voted against imposing Phase 4 water use restrictions.

The request for tougher water use rules came from Tampa Bay Water. Had Phase 4 been imposed, it could have banned most, if not all, residential lawn watering. Current rules limit lawn watering to just one day a week.

The SWFWMD board opted to toughen existing rules, which focused more on enforcement after landscapers and sod farmers complained about the consequences of Phase 4.

"If they did a total outdoor watering ban, it would have put us out of business," sod farmer Frank Balogh said. "They did a ban from October 28th to December 17th, business stopped completely."

The big question is, what happens now? The Bill Young Reservoir does hold enough water to supply demand for one day. The problem is that water is either not fit for human consumption or unreachable.

"There are fish in the reservoir and there are mechanical limitations to getting the last bit out of the bottom," Seeber said.

He added that the request for Phase 4 water use restrictions still stands.

Robyn Felix, a spokeswoman for SWFWMD told FOX 13 " the board will review a comprehensive report on our hydrologic conditions. It's not on the agenda but I'm sure the board will discuss Phase 4 when it meets."

That meeting is set for March 31st.