Graphic Courtesy UF/IFAS

Michael Dukes: UF/IFAS 2024 Landscape Summit to highlight water as critical to Florida's future | Guest Column

January 5, 2024

In 2022, Florida was the fastest growing state with more than 1,000 people moving to the state every day. Accordingly, growth of new construction and irrigated landscapes also continues. As a result, local communities continue to be challenged by water supply concerns if not outright supply shortages. This year, southern Hillsborough County has had low water pressure issues due to excess demand and rapid growth. The City of Zephyrhills took the unprecedented step of placing a moratorium on new development, in part, due to water supply concerns. In addition, developments such as Tavistock in Osceola County continue to explore innovative ways to reduce irrigation. Meanwhile, developers are exploring landscape designs that have significant areas unirrigated. As a consequence of water supply pressures, local governments are adopting Florida-Friendly Landscaping and Florida Water Star in their landscape codes. Thus, these programs are not just a good idea or the right thing to do, they are essential to ensuring water supply in the coming decades. 

These issues are driving the theme of the 2024 UF/IFAS Landscape Summit as "Building water supply resilience with Florida Landscapes." The summit will kick off with a panel establishing the scope of the water supply situation. Then it will showcase the research and Extension education efforts of UF/IFAS faculty to address these issues through a combination of research talks and lightning round updates. We'll continue our popular graduate student poster contest as in past years and the first day will conclude with a panel discussion including representatives from around the state discussing local issues with landscapes and water supply. 

The second day of the summit is designed for discussion featuring two invited panels of speakers. The morning panel will have representatives discussing the landscapes being installed by the Tavistock Development Company. These landscapes are radically different from traditional approaches, and they feature limited irrigated area, no sprinkler irrigation and extensive use of native plant material. Finally, the second day will wrap-up at noon after a panel of government representatives speak to the “Future of Florida Water, 5 Years and 10 Years Out”. This topic is critical to the future of Florida since we are a growth economy and water is central to much of that growth whether it's tourism, new residents or agriculture It is important that we work together to find solutions to support these uses while protecting natural resources 

Michael Dukes is the Director of the UF/IFAS Center for Land Use Efficiency (CLUE), which focuses on social, environmental, and economic issues affecting urban landscapes and agriculture in Florida.  

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