The Focus on Water Use
Throughout Florida, water managers, local governments and industry leaders are talking about water supply. With the ongoing growth of Florida’s population and the expansion of its urban footprint, water is needed for drinking, industry and irrigation, all without impairing Florida’s critical natural resources, wetlands, springs, rivers and estuaries.
The big question is: Will there be enough water for all these needs? The answer depends on who you are talking to, but there is considerable concern about future water supplies and what can be done now, and in the future, to ensure critical needs are met.
Without delving too far into the weeds, water supplies are being extensively studied, usually on a regional basis, over long future periods up to 50 years. These studies simultaneously look at existing and potential future water supplies and compare them to estimated future uses. It is inevitable that a spotlight falls on landscape irrigation uses, the latter often being referred to as nonessential.
With that said, no one seriously argues that irrigation is more important than ensuring an ample supply of safe drinking water. However, what is arguable are efforts to prematurely legislate restrictions on irrigation before exploring the remarkable benefits of existing best management practices (BMPs) which are by no means fully deployed, and of future BMPs which will improve water conservation and irrigation efficiency. At EREF, we believe you can have your cake and irrigate it too (or something like that).
For many of us in the industry, it is frustrating to see landscape ordinances to limit turf and plants on home sites, to restrict certain types of turf and plants from being used at all, to promote “turf replacement” programs, and other similarly-targeted programs when so many great alternatives exist. Here are just a few for consideration:
- Expansion of conservation technologies like soil-moisture sensors and smart irrigation controllers across the urban spectrum
- Incorporation of smart irrigation design directly into the Florida Building Code – it is almost incomprehensible that it currently is not!
- Systematic replacement of clock and calendar water management with water budgets, thus allowing homeowners and other water consumers to employ a reasonable amount of irrigation water as they see fit (versus some local government or water authority’s notion of what that might be).
- Utilization of soil-quality measures to promote healthy landscapes, including the use of modern soil amendments and additives which dramatically improve water conservation and plant health.
- Incentives for the above items, consistent with the effective incentives offered historically for water-conserving and power-conserving appliances, etc.
- Promoting the principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping properly through extension, education and industry outreach.
Until all of these are fully explored, regulations and restrictions are simply unnecessary. Beyond that, industry is constantly expanding its efforts and developing new turf and plant varieties, increasing the use of suitable native plant materials, and developing ever more practices that taken together make smart irrigation a sustainable part of Florida’s long-term water future.