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Reduce Water for Landscaping?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Article by: Ben Bolusky, FNGLA Chief Executive Officer

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That is the core conclusion of the just unveiled Water 2070 report. This landmark study was a joint project among 1000 Friends of Florida; UF-GeoPlan Center; and, the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.  Water 2070 digs deep into whether there will be sufficient available water to “meet the needs of people, agriculture and the environment” in the year 2070.  At that time, Florida’s population is projected to balloon from today’s 20 million residents to 35 million and water use is projected to increase by 50%.  The report hits on two fundamental options to address future water demand: (1) increase supply via alternatives such as reclaiming water and desalinization; or, (2) reduce demand via water conservation and increased efficiency.

When you peel back the report, Water 2070 reached the following conclusion: “The single most effective strategy to reduce water demand in Florida is to significantly reduce the amount of water used for landscape irrigation.”  At first blush, this statement sounds alarming to our nursery and landscape industry.  Yet, to its credit, the report does not simply lob that conclusion out there without any policy guidance. Rather Water 2070 offers a series of recommendations, many of which are actually quite reasonable. In fact, they shine some bright lights on two major programs in which FNGLA is already heavily involved.

The first is Florida Water Star. FWS is a statewide water conservation certification program for new and existing homes and commercial developments. FNGLA actually administers the FWS Accredited Professional exams on behalf of the St. Johns River Water Management District. The second is Florida-Friendly Landscaping™.  FFL means using low maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable practices. FNGLA is a full-fledged member of its advisory council.  FFL is a joint program of UF/IFAS and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Here are a few of the Water 2070 recommendations:

• Increase funding and outreach for the Florida Water Star and Florida Friendly Landscaping™ programs to promote greater water conservation in new and existing development

• Require Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ manual irrigation, soil moisture sensors, or comparable water conservation technology, for all new development

• Construct and incentivize the use of reclaimed water facilities

• Use Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ and other measures to reduce or eliminate landscaping water use, and seek formal Florida Friendly Landscaping™ recognition

• Lessen the need for irrigation by using the right plants in the right locations, grouping them according to water needs, and using rain barrels or cisterns to capture rainwater for irrigation

• Reduce storm water runoff through mulching plant beds, using porous surfaces for patios, walkways and driveways, and creating swales or low areas to hold and filter water on your property.

As you can see, these recommendations (and others in the report) seek to increase efficient irrigation, raise consumer education and heighten professionalism within the landscape industry.
Rather than solely pushing to deliver higher irrigation system efficiencies, these water conservation strategies are calling for a much more comprehensive approach. As such, they speak to FNGLA’s strength as a vertically integrated organization representing all segments of Florida’s diverse, multi-billion dollar nursery, landscape and irrigation industry. FNGLA will seize upon Water 2070 to aggressively position our landscape members and industry-at-large so we can demonstrate to Florida legislators, regulators and residents how the landscape profession aims to take the high road to help reduce future water demand.  We have a big role to play.

Read the Water 2070 summary report by clicking here.

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