Frequently Asked Questions
Report a Leak
Bill and Fees
Water Use Restrictions
Water Quality and Service
- Why does my water sometimes have an earthy taste and odor?
How do I report a leak?
If you are reporting a water leak, call 813-274-8811, option #4, to provide information needed to expedite handling.
How do I start or stop water service?
City of Tampa Utilities is a part of the Water Department's Distribution and Consumer Services Division. The group is responsible for the monthly utility billing of water, wastewater and solid waste services provided by the City. The Utilities Call Center Operations section handles all consumer inquiries, utility account services and system maintenance requests. You can find more information at tampagov.net/COTU or by calling the Utilities Call Center at (813) 274-8811.
Who should I call with utility bill questions?
For help with questions about your bill, call the Utilities Call Center at (813) 274-8811.
What are connection fees?
Connection fees are one-time charges to property owners who want to install new water service. Those affected may include new construction, properties being switched from well water to City water or properties where prior service lines have been abandoned. Connection fees vary. Call the Tampa Water Department Engineering Planning Section at (813) 274-8121, option #6, for more information.
Why does the City maintain water use restrictions during periods when it is raining frequently?
Year-round water use restrictions help ensure a sufficient quantity of drinking water to meet residential and business needs and provide adequate fire protection for the Tampa.
I am a Tampa Water Department customer but live in Unincorporated Hillsborough County. Whose water restrictions do I follow?
Tampa Water customers residing in unincorporated Hillsborough County follow water use restrictions defined and enforced by the county. In most cases, City and County restrictions are the same, but City customers in the County are encouraged to confirm watering restrictions and allowances with the County at (813) 275-7094 or http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org.
How can I report a suspected water use violation and how do I know if it was followed up?
To make a report of possible water use violations: call the Water Conservation Violation Hotline at (813) 274-8036 and leave a detailed message about the suspected violation, including address, date and time, and the nature of the suspected violation, or online by submitting a Citizen Action Request through the City's Customer Service Center. You may remain anonymous, if desired. We provide follow-up to 100 percent of reports received, but the volume of reports prevents us from providing specific feedback to individuals making reports.
I received a water use citation. What do I do?
Guidance for responding to a citation is including in the cover letter accompanying the citation packet. If you receive a water use citation and believe that the water use for which you were cited is one of the permitted uses defined in the applicable water use restrictions, call (813) 349-5014 within 30 calendar days after receiving the citation to provide information that will allow a review.
If the water use for which you were cited does not meet one of the permitted uses defined in the applicable water use restrictions and you wish to contest the citation, you may elect to appear in court to present your information to the judge for a decision. We recommend that you refer to the correspondence included with the citation packet for additional information about contesting a citation.
If you elect to pay the fine, you can either pay the fine directly to the City of Tampa within 45 calendar days from the date of the citation to avoid court-related fees. After 45 calendar days, payment may only be made to the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court. Specific information for making payment is located on the reverse of the citation.
The City of Tampa cannot process citation payments sent in with your utility bill or sent to the bill payment address. Any payment attempted in this manner may be returned to the citation recipient for proper handling and may cause delays in payment that result in additional court fees.
Please note: If the total penalty assessed on the citation is not paid within 45-days following the date on the citation, your case will be placed on the docket for a hearing with Hillsborough County Circuit Court. Failure to appear in court results in a default judgment of guilty when the case is called in court and an assessment of fines and fees, as determined by the judge. Failure to settle any fines assessed by the Court may result in increased penalties up to and including property liens.
To request a continuation of a court date or discuss options for paying a City of Tampa water use citation more than 45 days after the citation was issued, please contact the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court at (813) 276-2029, ext. 4325.
I just got a water use violation citation for irrigating new plant materials. I thought that was allowed. Who do I call?
Water use restrictions set out specific guidelines for irrigating new plant materials. Please call the Water Enforcement Office at (813) 349-5014 with questions about your citation and information about what to do if the irrigation you were cited for is allowed within the ordinance.
Do the water use restrictions include water uses other than irrigation?
Yes. A number of outdoor water use restrictions are included in the current restrictions, including restrictions related to the use of open hoses, testing of irrigation systems during prohibited hours, and watering-in of pesticides and fertilizers. Water restrictions do change in response to local and regional water supply conditions. It is suggested that all water users in Tampa review the Water Use Restrictions periodically or subscribe to receive water restriction change alerts via Alert Tampa to ensure that they avoid a water use restriction citation.
I'd like to convert my yard to Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ but I live in a deed-restricted community that requires the use of specific plant materials. What can I do?
Florida Statute 720.3075 states that "Homeowners' association documents, including declarations of covenants, articles of incorporation, or bylaws, may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, as defined in s. 373.185(1), on his or her land."
The Hillsborough County Extension Office offers a service for community or condominium associations to provide free on-site landscape evaluations to officers or board members of associations and includes recommendations for problem areas. This may be a way to help talk with your community of the value of using Florida-friendly landscapes. Contact the Extension at (813) 744-5519, ext. 54142, for more information.
Someone contacted me about a free in-home water test. Do they represent the City of Tampa?
The Tampa Water Department constantly tests and treats your water to make sure it is superior to all federal requirements for safe drinking water. Tampa Water Department employees all have photo ID cards. If someone asks to enter your home to test your water, request to see a photo ID. Companies that offer "free" home water tests may be trying to sell you water treatment products you don't need. Be suspicious if you're told that an in-home test has detected pollution or contamination in your water. In-home tests are rarely able to detect harmful substances. Tests that make tap water "change color" may make it appear your water is unhealthy when it's perfectly safe.If you have any questions about water quality, call (813) 274-5657, and we'll send you the latest water quality report explaining how we keep Tampa's water safe or download the most recent quality report.
What is a backflow device and why do I need one?
A backflow device is a mechanical insert in your plumbing system on your side of the meter that prevents a reversal of water flow. Having backflow devices on water connections helps maintain drinking water quality throughout the system to ensure that all customers receive the highest quality water possible.
Approved backflow prevention devices are required to be installed on the service connection to any premises that the department has identified as having a potential for backflow. Additionally, all irrigation systems are required to have backflow prevention devices, and any property connected both to potable and reclaimed water supplies is required to have the potable water supply protected by an approved backflow prevention device.
Prevent potential cross connections or backflow resulting from a garden hose being submerged in a bucket, sink, pond, swimming pool, car radiator, or a chemical applicator attached to the hose by installing inexpensive hose bibb vacuum breakers, commonly available in the plumbing section of home improvement stores, between outdoor spigots and garden hoses.
The fastest way to shut your water off is to locate your private shut off valve, typically placed on the side of your home or structure. This valve is usually located in line with the meter box, low to the ground, sometimes behind bushes, on property between our meter box and your residence. If you are experiencing a leak at a fixture (such as a sink or toilet), look for small shut-off valves behind or below the fixture to shut off water flow under a repair is completed.
We recommend that every home or structure have a private shut off valve. This will help minimize water damage to property in cases of emergencies, allowing you to shut off water to your home or business without delay.
If you property does not have a private shut off value, call (813) 274-8811 to schedule a turn off. For same-day emergency turn-off assistance, a service fee may apply. The curb stop is City property. Tampa City Code Section 26-70 prohibits anyone other than an authorized representative of the City from turning off or turning on water at the City's curb stop. Any damage to the City valve, water meter or service as a result of unauthorized use will be billed to the account holder.
Do I need to buy a water softener? What is the hardness of Tampa's drinking water?
Some companies sell water softeners to reduce the hardness of the water. The softener's purpose is to improve the aesthetics or feel of the water. Using a water softener is a matter of personal preference -- but, using a water softener may not improve the safety or quality of water as it relates to health.
As water travels over or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals such as calcium or magnesium. The 'hardness' of water refers to the amount of these minerals in the water. Because calcium or magnesium can prevent soaps from lathering or creating suds, cleaning with water containing high amounts of these minerals is considered 'hard' or difficult. Water containing very little calcium or magnesium is called 'soft' water. In general, water from wells contains more minerals because groundwater is exposed to the minerals longer.
The hardness of Tampa's drinking water, primarily taken from the Hillsborough River, fluctuates throughout the year -- lower during the wet season and higher in the dry season -- between about 140 to 300 parts per million or 8 to 17 grains per gallon (one grain per gallon equals 17.2 parts per million). Water is considered 'hard' water at concentrations above 120 parts per million (Source: USGS).
Hard water is fine to use and drink without a softener. Some people like the way their hair and skin feels when using soft water. Others don't like soft water because they feel the soap won't rinse off. People with hard water may notice white deposits on dishes, cooking pots or coffee makers. Some detergents now contain the softening ingredients to reduce and remove these deposits. The calcium in the water can deposit on faucets and shower curtains as a white residue (which is most easily cleaned with a vinegar-soaked cloth).
Many water softeners exchange sodium for existing calcium and magnesium in the water and therefore, increase the sodium content of the water. The sodium increase in softened water may be a concern to you. If you are on a sodium restricted diet, you may want to consult your physician to determine what is best for you. The softened water may be more corrosive and may harm your water pipes in your house. The resin beads in the water softener slowly break down and these break-down materials sometimes settle as deposits in the toilet tanks and in the water heater indicating your softened water may contain these materials. An unused softener can grow bacteria and may be a source of potential water contamination in your home.
The cost of softening water is a factor that must be taken into consideration. Some water softeners have features to reduce water use. On-demand water softening equipment measures the demand and softens water only when needed. These units can save water by eliminating unnecessary regeneration cycles and making the most efficient use of water, salt and energy.
If you are considering installing a water softener, the not-for-profit National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) independently tests home water treatment devices and has a guide to selecting the right household water treatment system to meet your needs online at www.nsf.org.
When we are experiencing a lack of rainfall combined with increasing daytime temperatures, we sometimes also experience an algae bloom in our reservoir that temporarily affects the taste and odor of Tampa’s drinking water. While the resulting taste and odor are earthy and unpleasant, the water remains safe to drink while the algae bloom is being treated to bring it under control. Drawing tap water into storage containers and chilling the water in refrigerator prior to use can help reduce the unpleasant taste and odor.
I recently started noticing a white film on my dishes. What is causing that?
Companies manufacturing automatic dishwasher detergent may periodically change their formulas to comply with federal or state requirements or to reduce manufacturing costs.
To Remove Filming/Spotting
First, remove all metal items from your dishwasher and wash them with soap by hand (vinegar is too acidic for metal items, but safe for stainless steel);
Put two cups of white vinegar in a bowl and place on the bottom rack of your dishwasher;
Run your dishwasher through a cycle without adding any detergent;
Then, re-wash in the dishwasher using the dish washer detergent or by hand using a hand dishwashing detergent to remove any vinegar residue.
To Prevent or Reduce Film on your Dishes and Cookware
Use enough detergent to prevent hard water minerals and soils filming;
Use a rinse aid to help rinse away food particles and residues that can cause spots on dishes;
Run hot water at kitchen sink before starting the cycle. Water temperature should be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius).
Run dishwasher when no other water is being used for maximum water presssure to the dishwasher.
Make sure no items block the dishwasher sprayer arms so that enough water reaches all the dishes.
If you have additional questions about your filming issue, please contact the dish washer and detergent manufacturers.
What is a Precautionary Boil Water Notice?
It is a notification that advises customers to boil tap water used for drinking or cooking until tests verify the water is safe. It is issued to encourage our customers to boil their water due to a disruption in the system that could possibly allow for the contamination of water. A Precautionary Boil Water Notice does not mean that the water is contaminated, but, because the quality of the water is unknown, customers should take precautions and assume that the water is unsafe for drinking.
These notices are usually issued because of a required shutdown of our water distribution system due to scheduled maintenance or an emergency repair. Shutting down the system can cause a loss of water pressure that could allow contaminants to enter. We issue boil water notices as a precaution even when contamination is unlikely. We recommend that our customers subscribe to receive wide-spread boil water notifications via Alert Tampa.
For guidance and recommendations related to water use when a PBWN is in place and for recommendations for businesses, non-residential locations and service providers, contact the Hillsborough County Health Department, their licensing agency, or a health care provider for specific recommendations and/or requirements associated with receipt of a PBWN.
How does the Tampa Water Department inform customers about boil water notices?
We typically hand deliver Precautionary Boil Water Notices door-to-door to the affected area. We also notify the local health department and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) with every occurrence. The same method is used to notify customers that the notice has ended. Specific questions regarding a notice can be directed to the contact number on the notice or the Tampa Water Department Emergency Repair and Service Section at (813) 274-7400.
Should a large-scale or system-wide Precautionary Boil Water Notice be necessary, in addition to enlisting the assistance of the local media to alert the community, we subscribing to receive wide-spread boil water notifications via Alert Tampa.
What does the Tampa Water Department do during a boil water notice?
After the water system is repaired and the pressure is restored in the pipes to your home or business, the Precautionary Boil Water Notice will remain in effect for while bacteria tests are conducted to assure the safety of the water. The notice will be lifted (rescinded) only after tests prove the water is safe to drink.
What should I do if I already drank the water before knowing about the Precautionary Boil Water Notice?
Should you accidentally consume water during a precautionary boil water notice without boiling it first, chances are you will be okay as long as you are in good health. Most people who happen to drink this water will not get sick. If you do get sick, the symptoms are similar to food poisoning: nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and possibly a mild fever. However, that does not mean it is safe for you to continue to use the water without boiling it first. Symptoms caused by bacteria in water related illnesses include but are not limited to diarrhea, nausea, cramps, and headaches. Should any of these symptoms occur you should seek medical advice immediately.
If there is a filter on my kitchen faucet and/or one in my refrigerator, is that water safe to drink?
The water filters that are attached to the kitchen faucet or placed in the refrigerator are there in order to improve the aesthetic aspects of water quality, such as odor and taste, not to remove harmful pathogens such as bacteria. You should boil your water or use bottled water whenever a Precautionary Boil Water Notice is issued.
Is it safe to shower during a Precautionary Boil Water Notice?
It is safe to shower as long as you take care not to swallow the water or get it into your eyes, nose or mouth. Children and disabled individuals should have their bath supervised to ensure water is not ingested. The time spent bathing should be minimized. Though the risk of illness is minimal, individuals who have recent surgical wounds, are immuno-suppressed or have a chronic illness may want to consider using bottled or boiled water for cleansing until the notice is lifted. Individuals may wish to contact a health care provider for specific recommendations.
Is it safe for my pets to drink the water during a Precautionary Boil Water Notice?
You should take the same precautions with your pet as you would for yourself. Pets should be given boiled or bottled water. In cases of aquatic pets, such as fish, you should not try to change their water while a precautionary boil water notice is in effect.
What should the customer do after the boil water notice is lifted?
After the boil water notice is lifted, flush the water out of your distribution lines. Start with an outdoor faucet furthest from your meter and flush all outdoor faucets. Run hot water through each indoor faucet until you notice a change in water temperature. Remove the aerator before flushing kitchen and bathroom sink faucets. Run enough hot water to flush the hot water heater. If you have an automatic ice maker, empty the ice tray several times to ensure that the line to the ice maker is flushed.