Water Conservation and Landscape Gardening in Florida

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Water is arguably one of the world’s most finite resources. While water can be efficiently accumulated, stored, and recycled through the use of numerous technologies, the dramatic increase in the world’s population and the impact of climate change among other factors have made water a scarce resource in many countries. Thus, the supply of water needs to be rationally distributed among its users in society, which include agriculture, industry, recreation, and the general public. Governments have evolved effective systems and infrastructures to scientifically and effectively monitor water supply and consumption. These institutions today actively campaign and propagate water-wise technologies towards the popularization of water conservation practices (www.saveourH2O.org ).

Florida, a Showcase for Water Conservation

The State of Florida’s water conservation program or “waterwise” is moored in the existence of complex demographic and resource-based realities. The state’s increasing population of 17.9 million (as of 2005) the fourth largest in the United States, the volume of 86 million tourist visitors reported by Orlando Business Journal in 2006, the largest production of citrus in the country and one of the largest net farm incomes (www.pubs.usgs.gov/fs) are imperatives for the efficient management of its water resources.

While sources of water abound in the state from rivers, streams, wetlands, freshwater lakes, springs and other underlying aquifers, saline sources and recycling augment the supply of this resource (www.pubs.usgs.gov/fs). Water withdrawal statistics show that drinking water   and power generation account for larger quantities of water consumption (www.pubs.usgs.gov/fs ). In fact, the use of water is classified officially into different categories:  “the public supply, domestic self-supplied, commercial-industrial-mining self-supplied, agricultural irrigation, recreational irrigation, and power generation (www.pubs.usgs.gov/fs )”

Use of water for landscaping falls within the category of water used for recreational purposes which includes water used to maintain golf courses, turfs, and lawns for aesthetic and recreational purposes (www.usgs.gov/fs). Water used for recreational irrigation comes from ground water, surface water, and reclaimed water (www.usgs.gov/fs). One variable that strategically determines the volume of water consumed by this category is the increase of golf acreage (www.usgs.gov/fs).

The Use of Water for Landscaping in Florida

Waterwise as a resource conservation measure does not focus on water alone but also on environmental conservation through the choice of the appropriate site for the location of specific plants thus minimizing the use of inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and water (www.saveourH2O.org; www.sjrwmd.com ). These water wise search tools are found in websites which guide choices for plants germane to Florida or Florida-friendly vis-à-vis their ideal sites and location (www.sjrwmd.com) . Florida’s water management infrastructure divides the state into districts which monitor and supervise and manage water supply and consumption (www.sjrwmd.com; www.pubs.usgs.gov/fs).  In these districts, conservation measures are strictly applied and practiced to ensure the availability of a steady supply to cover people’s water needs. Florida, in fact, has the Florida Water Star Program and websites designed to guide landscaping and minimize water irrigation for landscaping purposes (www.sjrwmd.com). These landscaping websites address homeowners, professionals, communities, property managers and their concerns (www.sjrwmd.com ).

Research on water use, the weather, topography and botany is extensive in Florida with the cooperation of the science departments of Florida’s universities, various environmental and conservation organizations, the water management districts, and the counterpart government institutions. The shared awareness among these sectors that Florida’s weather ranges from extreme dry to wet with periodic exposure to strong winds and hurricanes has guided the identification of sturdy plants that can withstand these climactic changes (www.sjrwmd.com) . Furthermore, zoning the landscapes into natural, drought-tolerant, and oasis (www.sjrwmd.com) provides guidance for the public interested in helping maintain the lush greenery of the state by choosing the right specie of plant to use and minimize unnecessary use of water. The landscaping practices guided by popularized results of scientific research in Florida and in many other states ensure lush plant growth with the minimum use of water and inputs like fertilizers and pesticides which might pollute the water systems and the environment.

Technologies of Water use and Conservation

Concern for the minimum possible utilization of water has also inspired numerous inventions that scientifically manage water use particularly for landscaping purposes. At the core of these water wisdom systems is a set of watering guidelines for landscapes which takes into account the seasons of the year, the intervals of watering, the types of plants within the landscape (ie. trees, shrubs,  groundcovers and vines, cacti and succulents, annuals, warm season grass, and cool  season grass), and quantities of water required for growth and maintenance (www.wateruseitwisely.com) .

One technology that is effectively used by commercial plant growers and nurseries is drip irrigation which slowly waters plants at a level that maintains their moisture level. This done through the use customized regulated emitters located near the roots of plants (www.saveourH2O.com). Another gadget is the smart controller, a weather-sensitive mechanism that is programmed to control the output of water sprinklers in landscaped areas depending on climatic changes.

These technologies complement the research-based applications that ensure the effectiveness of water conservation practices for landscapes and recreation facilities in Florida and in other areas in the United States.

References

Water-Wise Landscaping Basics (n.d.) Available from: http: //www.saveourH2O.org (Accessed on 11 August 2014)

Landscape Watering by the Numbers (n.d.) Available from: http://wateruseitwisely.com (Accessed on 11 August 2014)

Marella, Richard L.  Water Use in Florida 2005and Trends 1950-2005 (n.d.) Available from: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs  (Accessed on 11 August2014)

Waterwise landscaping helps save water resources (n.d.) Available from: http://sjrwmd.com  (Accessed on 11 August 2014)

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