TAMPA (FOX 13) - The majority of the Tampa Bay region is now in a severe drought and water restrictions are expected in the not-so-distant future.
A new Florida drought map released this week shows all counties in our region, except Citrus, in a severe drought.
Tampa Bay Water, which supplies the region's drinking water, is preparing for a possible shortage.
"We're seeing the water table decline, water in our lakes are low, the rivers are very low," said Alison Adams, Tampa Bay Water's chief technical officer. "We expect to actually be in, what we call, our Stage One drought conditions in early May."
The company is already tapping into its 15.5 billion gallon reservoir and has used more than 5 billion gallons so far.
"The reservoir was built for times just like this," Adams said. "That is our bank account to continue providing water supplies even when we have no river flow left in the region."
Adams added folks should begin thinking about conserving water and the best place to start is being sure homeowners are watering their lawns on their assigned days.
Tampa Bay Water is also relying on a desaliation plant that converts seawater into drinking water.
A spokesperson said the plant, which is "drought-proof" because it relies on seawater, is producing 15 million gallons a day and will continue at that rate until the summer rains return. The plant can produce up to 10 percent of the regional water supply when needed.
FOX 13 Meteorologist Dave Osterberg said dry conditions are expected for the foreseeable future.
"We need more than a couple of showers to get through this. We're going to need soakings and soakings," he said. "You go all the way back to September first and we're close to 11 inches of rain below normal. Our dry season has been a lot drier than normal. In fact [it's] the fourth driest period we've had from October first to the middle of April."
The dry conditions are largely responsible for the thousands of acres that have burned in brush fires and wildfires during the last few weeks in Tampa Bay.