ORLANDO, Fla. (NEXSTAR) – Some Florida residents are being asked to limit water usage because the liquid oxygen used to treat it is now in short supply due to the surge in critically ill COVID-19 patients.
The mayor of Orlando asked residents on Friday to stop watering their lawns and washing their cars for at least a week, saying water usage needed to be cut back because of the recent surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The Orlando Utility Commission treats the city’s water with liquid oxygen and supplies that ordinarily go toward water treatment have been diverted to hospitals for patients suffering from the virus, Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
“At this time we believe if our community takes these immediate actions we will be able to mitigate the impacts on our water supply,” Dyer said. “This is another unfortunate impact of the pandemic continuing to surge in our community and it’s another result of what happens when residents do not get vaccinated and become critically ill and need dire medical support and treatment.”
The city-owned utility typically goes through 10 trucks of liquid oxygen a week but its supplier recently said that it would be cut back to five to seven trucks a week to accommodate hospitals, said Linda Ferrone, the utility commission’s chief customer and marketing officer.
Ferrone said the move is unprecedented and that if things got worse the city might have to issue a boil water alert.
About 40% of the utility commission’s potable water is used for irrigation so any strains on the water supply will be greatly reduced if residents stop watering their lawns, washing their cars or using pressure washers, she said.
Since the 1990s, the utility has used liquid oxygen to remove the slight discoloration and rotten-egg smell that is found naturally in Florida’s water supply.
The OUC said on its website that it’s hard to estimate how long the water shortage might last since it is tied to COVID-19 hospitalizations, but warned customers they will likely have to reduce usage for at least two weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.