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Zephyrhills to halt new development as water availability evaporates

The “City of Pure Water” isn’t sure how much more it can promise to future development.

Only recently, Zephyrhills became Pasco County’s largest city. Now leaders there have decided that in order to protect the city’s future they are going to have to put on the brakes for a while.

This week, the City Council tentatively agreed to a moratorium that could stop new development and annexation applications by late June.

While there are several reasons the city wants to slow growth, it is the element that made them famous — Zephyrhills water — that brought them to this challenging decision.

In recent months, water usage has spiked, bringing the city close to its limit, according to City Manager Billy Poe. After analyzing the water usage already promised to new projects on the books, he said they realized that, without a pause, “we were going to be short of water.”

The city of Zephyrhills has an active water use permit with the Southwest Florida Water Management District that authorizes use of 3.3 million gallons per day, according to the agency’s spokesperson, Susanna Martinez Tarokh.

“The city has indicated to the (water management) district over the past year that they are concerned with projected growth and would like to modify the permit to obtain an increase in the permitted quantity,” she said. “This permit application is currently under review.”