December 22, 2009

Be Aware of Water Use

Wilma J. Holley, Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program Educator, Pinellas County Extension

Most of us take water for granted. Water is piped into our homes and landscapes; we turn on the faucet or irrigation system and there it is. Water conservation goes way beyond watering efficiently, which is the second principle of the nine major principles emphasized by Florida Yards & Neighborhoods. Naturally, checking our irrigation systems for leaks and misdirected or broken heads, making repairs, and calibrating the system to apply ¾” per application are all good practices.

We can do more, including following local water restrictions. The Tampa Bay area has been in a four year drought. While we have had some recent rains the drought is not over. We can still see the effects of it in our lakes, rivers, and groundwater. Recently the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) eased water restrictions from Phase III to Phase II. We are still limited to one day a week watering before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. and will need above normal rainfall this winter to bring our levels up enough to lift restrictions further.

Another thing SWFWMD is asking homeowners to do is “Skip a Week” of irrigation during the winter. If you have an automatic system, simply turn your irrigation timer off the week you are skipping and then back on the week you are watering. Also watch the weather, and if we receive ½” or more of rain on the week you are scheduled to water – don’t!

Plants and grass do not require as much water in the winter. The weather is cooler, there is less evaporation, and most plants are not actively growing. Therefore skipping a week of irrigation is the best thing you can do for your yard.
“Overwatering does more than deplete the water supply; it also makes plants more prone to disease and pests. By choosing and operating a watering system correctly, you can reduce water bills, decrease plant problems, and lower maintenance requirements. For example, the more you water your lawn, the faster it grows and the more it needs to be mowed. It’s also more likely to develop fungal problems that require treatment with fungicides.” The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook A Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Publication

Average American families use 100-175 gallons of water a day, delivered to them. In some parts of the world an average family uses only 5 gallons of water a day and they have to walk miles for it. To fully appreciate our own water sometimes it helps to understand what others go through. I have included this website for that reason: .

We can’t solve the world water crisis by ourselves; yet, we should be willing to contribute by following carefully considered water restrictions, keeping our irrigation systems in proper working order, and skipping a week of irrigation. That is an insignificant price to pay to have water readily available. We can’t ignore the water shortage and pretend it will simply go away – we should make water conservation a part of our every day lives.

Watering restrictions are set by SWFWMD; however, counties and utilities sometimes impose tighter restrictions, so it is wise to bookmark your utility website and check back periodically to keep up to date with your local water restrictions. Following is a link to the SWFWMD website which has a link to each county and utility within their District:

To learn more about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Principles mentioned and more things you can do to use less water in your landscape go to:

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