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Physical Plant is reducing the USF Tampa campus’s water usage in response to restrictions declared by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) because of an area drought.

Before the Phase IV or  “critical water shortage” restrictions which went into effect April 3, Physical Plant used approximately 1.6 million gallons of water a week for irrigation purposes, said Physical Plant Director Adrian Cuarta.

But by reducing watering duration times, installing
low-volume units and not watering certain areas of the Tampa campus, Physical Plant expects to use about 30 percent to 40 percent less water, Cuarta said.

Physical Plant uses water from wells and the city of Tampa to irrigate the lawns and landscaping on the Tampa campus, which is divided into seven watering zones.

Zones that use water from the city, specifically the landscaped area around the Health Sciences Center, will be watered only by hand,
Cuarta said.

He said the remaining zones will be watered with sprinklers once a week from midnight to 4:00 a.m. or from 8:00 p.m. to midnight, in accordance with SFWMD restrictions.

The athletic fields will continue to be watered at a reduced rate for safety
purposes, said Trudie Frecker, associate vice president of Administrative Services.

Cuarta said the decorative fountains in the
Administration Building courtyard and Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza have been turned off.

However, the fountains in the retention ponds south of Castor Hall and north of the new residence hall will remain on to prevent the growth of algae and scum, Cuarta said.

One watering problem is sprinkler heads that pour water onto nearby sidewalks, roads and grass.

Frecker said Physical Plant personnel constantly monitor the irrigation system, but sprinkler heads frequently get knocked out of balance.

“Something as simple as being stepped on or knocked by a cart can impact the flow and direction,” Frecker said.

The malfunctioning sprinkler heads are generally fixed as soon as they are identified, she said.

With the new watering restrictions, Cuarta said the Tampa campus will see
“damage and loss of plant material, with a diminished appearance of the campus landscaping.”

The SFWMD Phase IV water restrictions, voted on by the district governing board, are scheduled to expire June 30. The restrictions apply to all water uses in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.