NatureCoasters urged to Reduce Water Consumption

Citizens are being urged to voluntarily reduce water consumption while drought conditions continue. Voluntary citizen compliance will bring down the level of water usage, during this extended period of dry weather, to avoid potential regulatory action.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s governing board approved a water shortage order April 13, 2017 that puts counties on alert that mandatory cutbacks may be necessary. About 34 percent of Florida is now in a severe drought with an additional 35 percent either in moderate drought or abnormally dry.

Pete Kwiatkowski, Director of the District’s Resource Evaluation Division, said a lack of rain has depleted groundwater supplies so much that some wells are near record low levels. “Because it’s been so dry and water demands are increasing for irrigation, it’s a double whammy,” Kwiatkowski said. “We can see conditions decline pretty quickly.”

Here are some facts about outdoor water use:

Due to the ongoing drought conditions, there has been an increase in lawn and landscape watering. In most communities, the amount of water homeowners use to keep their lawns green or gardens lush spikes in the summer—two to four times as much water than they use the rest of the year!

In addition, those with timed outdoor watering systems often forget to monitor the weather and make certain they have a functioning rain sensor.  Required by Florida Statute, a rain sensor interrupts a scheduled irrigation cycle if sufficient rain has recently fallen.

Homes with automatic irrigation systems can use about 50 percent more water outdoors than those without them. If you receive a water bill, check your summertime use—how does your warmer weather water use compare to winter months? Here are some tips for keeping water use under control:

Timing is everything: Know how much water your landscape actually needs before you set your sprinkler. A clock-timer-controlled irrigation system that is not properly programmed or maintained can waste as much as 30,000 gallons of water annually.  Most lawns only require ½” to ¾” of water each week.  You can conduct a catch can test to determine each zone’s output and optimal run times.  Find instructions at http://tinyurl.com/CatchCanTest.  Generally, it is best to water lawns in the early morning to reduce evaporation losses during the heat of the day, as well as minimize extended periods of wet grass that can lead to fungus.

Look for the label: If your system uses a clock timer with pushpins, consider upgrading to a WaterSense labeled controller. WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers act like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water, reducing waste and improving plant health. Some even offer the ability to control and view activity from anywhere, which is great for seasonal residents.  Learn more at www.epa.gov/watersense/products/controltech.html.

Tune up your system: Inspect your irrigation system monthly when it is being used regularly.  Most systems have a test mode.  Walk each zone while it is running to check for leaks or clogged sprinkler heads. Fix sprinkler heads that are broken or spraying on the sidewalk, street, or driveway.

Play zone defense: When planting, assign areas of your landscape different hydro-zones depending on sun/shade exposure, soil and plant types, and type of sprinklers. Then, adjust your irrigation system or watering schedule based on those zones’ specific needs. This helps you avoid overwatering some areas or under-watering others.  Call your local Florida Yards & Neighborhoods coordinator at (352) 527-5708 to learn more and inquire about upcoming classes.

Leave it long:  Raise your lawn mower blade. Longer grass promotes deeper root growth, resulting in a more drought-resistant lawn, reduced evaporation, and fewer weeds.

For more tips on reducing outdoor water use, visit http://tinyurl.com/OutdoorWaterUse.