Saving Water and Ultimately, Money

The Gainesville Sun today June 9, 2016, published an editorial on saving water which can result in also saving money.  Hats off to Nathan Crabbe for working for our environment.Scroll

Editorial: Saving water and ultimately money

In: Saving Water and Ultimately, Money | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
A landscaping company employee waters the freshly installed landscaping for a new residential property in Haile Plantation.
Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 2:39 p.m.

Even as Tropical Storm Colin bore down on our region this week, sprinklers could be seen watering lawns in the Gainesville area.

Residents don’t have to live here for long before they see examples of sprinklers running in the rain or pouring as much water on sidewalks as lawns. Wasteful lawn watering might not be the biggest misuse of water — agriculture uses a large share and has its own problems with inefficient practices — but it can be the most frustrating.

The Alachua County Commission has taken aim at the problem with new irrigation rules. The rules, which took effect April 1, cover new or substantially renovated irrigation systems on homes and businesses in the unincorporated county.

The rules limit the part of a property that may be irrigated to a half-acre and mandate that just 60 percent of the area may be irrigated by high-volume rotor and spray heads. They also require technology that shuts off the water during the rainy period and low-flow irrigation for mulch beds, shrubs and trees.

The standards are based on the Florida Water Star program, which estimates a typical home would use 175,504 fewer gallons each year. The program also determined the standards cost an extra $2,300 for a typical house for the irrigation system and additional mulch beds — expenses that come on top of county inspection costs.

As The Sun recently reported, some home builders are frustrated with the added expenses. But buyers paying a higher price for homes will find savings of $852 a year on their water bills — meaning an extra $2,300 would be paid off in just over 2.5 years.

Of course, some homes in the unincorporated county use wells that mean they pay for just the electric costs of running their pump rather than municipal water bills. That shows the need for additional measures that encourage water conservation in Florida, a state where water is readily available from the aquifer under our feet but can be depleted by wasteful practices.

Fortunately, most Floridians care about conserving water — or at least say they do. Less than 20 percent of respondents to a recent survey by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences reported practices that would categorize them as being unconcerned about their water use.

The survey found more than a third of respondents could be classified as water-savvy conservationists, while the remaining 45 percent were considered water-considerate consumers who conserve fairly well but have room for improvement in their landscape practices.

One of the reasons, the study found, is conserving water can be perceived as a sacrifice even though people may stand to benefit as a result. In addition to savings on water bills, practices required under the county code such as regulating the pressure of spray heads mean more effective systems.

“When you see all this water misting off into the air it’s because they have a pressure problem, so you’re losing so much water to evaporation,” Stacie Greco, water conservation coordinator for the county, told The Sun. “It’s just floating off and not getting to the plant.”

The new rules apply only to new or substantially renovated irrigation systems, so might not cover that lawn spotted being watered in a storm. They represent just an initial step in a state that should move away from water-intensive landscaping entirely before the next drought forces the issue, as happened in California.

Hopefully there are enough water-considerate residents out there that see these practices will save them — and protect our water supply — in the long run.

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