According to the Associated Industries of Florida, the state is now at a water crossroads. They say the state’s three largest urban-economic regions — Tampa Bay, Southeast Florida and Greater Orlando — have effectively run out of available groundwater.
AIF also says the three largest water management districts have determined that increased pumping in these regions will result in environmental impacts such as drawdowns of wetlands and lakes, reduced flows to springs and rivers and increased risk of saltwater contamination into fresh groundwater resources.
In the Tampa Bay area, the water authority has already been required to reduce groundwater pumping by 90 million gallons a day. Because of this water shortage, water restrictions were extended for Tampa Bay area residents and homeowners last year.
The Phase II water shortage restrictions are still in effect through July 31, though residents can continue to water their lawns on a twice-per-week schedule. The schedules in Sun City Center, Apollo Beach, Ruskin and Riverview are:
According to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, nicknamed SWIFTMUD, residents at even-numbered addresses may water on Thursday and/or Sunday before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
Residents at odd-numbered addresses may water on Wednesdays and/or Saturdays before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
If the odd-numbered or even-numbered addresses do not apply to certain residents, or if there is no discernible address, residents may water on Tuesday and/or Friday before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
SWIFTMUD also says that hand watering of plants, other than lawns, can be done at any time of the day or week.
Residents will be happy to know that if they have planted a new lawn or plants, they will have a 60-day grace period to get the lawn and new plantings established. However, there are restrictions.
During the first 30 days, lawns and new plantings may be watered any day. On the second 30 days, lawns and new plantings can be watered every other day.
After the 60 days, residents at even-numbered addresses may water on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Residents at odd-numbered addresses may water on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Note that reclaimed water sources can be used whenever the resident chooses, but if mixed with another water source, or restricted by a local Florida government agency, those restrictions apply.
Also, commercial or agricultural entities must follow the water restrictions, and sprinklers on recreational greens must be limited to the lawn restrictions.
Homeowners associations and other entities should wait to plant new lawns and landscaping, or engage in any other activity that increases water consumption, until the water shortage restrictions through July 31 end.
Florida residents can help reduce water consumption in their landscaping by following nine Florida Friendly Landscaping principles, according to SWIFTMUD. The University of Florida’s Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, or FYN, program has educational opportunities for homeowners offered through Florida Extension programs in 11 of 16 counties in our water district.
They hope to educate homeowners how to design, install and maintain healthy landscapes that use a minimum of water, fertilizer and pesticides. Information on this program is found at the end of this article.
The nine FFL principles are:
1. RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE. Plant plants that suit a specific site. This will help minimize the need for watering, fertilizers and pesticides. Limit the number of plants that require a lot of water. Keep only as much grass as you need for recreational and other purposes. Plant beds and mulched areas use less water than grass.
2. WATER EFFICIENTLY. Fifty percent of water use by homeowners is outside. Collect water in a rain barrel to water plants. In the summer, plants and lawns only need three-quarters of an inch of water every three to five days. That amount usually comes from rainfall.
3. FERTILIZE APPROPRIATELY. When too much fertilizer is used, it seeps past the root zone of lawns, plants or trees into the aquifer, or runs off into water bodies. Use slow-release fertilizers that make nutrients available to plants for a longer time, and use iron instead of nitrogen if you want to green-up your lawn.
4. MULCH. Maintaining a three-inch layer of mulch will help retain soil moisture, prevent erosion and suppress weeds. Look for cypress mulch that is not harvested from Florida’s wetlands, or use mulching alternatives like melaleuca, leaves, pine needles or bark.
5. ATTRACT WILDLIFE. Consider using native plants in your landscape. They are the natural food, shelter and nesting plants of our local wildlife.
6. MANAGE YARD PESTS RESPONSIBLY. Learn to identify beneficial pests and let them do their work. Check plants and pick off pests, or prune affected plants when possible. Use less toxic pesticides such as horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps and Bacillus thuringiensis (BT).
7. RECYCLE. Grass clippings and leaves provide nutrients to the soil and help to reduce waste disposal when reused on the landscape.
8. REDUCE STORMWATER RUNOFF. Runoff of water can carry pollutants such as soil, debris, fertilizer, gasoline and pesticides that can adversely impact water quality. Direct downspouts and gutters onto your lawn or plant areas, or use rain barrels, cisterns or containment areas. Clean up gas or oil spills on your driveway. Use cat litter to absorb the oil. Pick up pet waste to help reduce bacterial and nutrient pollution.
9. PROTECT THE WATERFRONT. Never prune mangroves or remove any vegetation without first seeking proper permits and guidelines. Establish a maintenance-free zone of at least 10 feet between your landscape and a water body. Remove invasive exotic aquatic plants by cutting, pulling or raking. Plant a buffer zone of low-maintenance plants between your lawn and shoreline to absorb nutrients and to provide wildlife habitat.
For any questions on water restrictions or to report a possible violation, you may call the water restrictions hotline at 1-800-848-0499 in Florida during normal business hours, or email water.restrictions@WaterMatters.org.
The Hillsborough County Extension Office is at 5339 County Road 579 South in Seffner. You can call 813-744-5519 to check on any FYN workshops. Stephen Gran is the director of the Hillsborough County Extension Office. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org; the FFL coordinator is Lynn Barber. Her email is email@example.com.
The 5th Annual Florida Water Forum sponsored by AIF will be held Friday, Oct. 10, at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The forum will address critical issues related to Florida’s water crisis, with speakers addressing agricultural water supply, permitting, alternative water supply projects and a look at what is planned for the 2015 Florida legislative session on helping solve water issues in this state.
Interested community business leaders, local government officials and members of the general public can register at www.flawaterforum.com.