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There are so many reasons to conserve water

Did you know that over-watering your lawn can increase the amount of nitrogen running into nearby waters?

While important, increased nitrogen runoff is just one of several reasons why you should look to reduce your water use this April, as we mark the 21st anniversary of dedicating April as “Water Conservation Month” in Florida.

Why reduce your water use?

Lawns need just one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water per week. Watering more than that not only wastes water, but it increases the amount of nitrogen entering local waters, weakens plant roots, costs money, and threatens the sustainability of our water supply even as demand continues to climb.

The population in Florida is expected to grow by 6.4 million in the next 25 years. The average water consumption for Floridians is 90 gallons per day. This means that Florida will need to produce 576 million gallons per day of freshwater to meet the demand over the next 25 years.

Could water conservation help meet future needs?

If all 20 million people who currently live in the state reduced their use by 10 percent, then we would have an extra 360 million gallons per day for future residents. This is more than half of the water needed over the next 25 years.

Where should you start?

Water used in your yard can account for more than 50 percent of your entire water budget. There are many ways to reduce your water use outdoors. Start by checking your irrigation system. I conducted 15 home irrigation checks in 2018, with the goal of helping residents reduce their water use. Posted below are some of the issues I found:

  • 170 heads were malfunctioning and needed to be capped or turned off by zone.
  • 17 sprinkler heads were broken.
  • Five sprinkler lines were broken.
  • 86 percent of all rain sensors inspected were not working, missing, or on bypass.
  • Three households watered more than one day per week (two, three and five days per week).

I calculated a water savings of 110,000 gallons per year just by capping the 170 sprinkler heads that were watering houses, sidewalks or established landscape plants that do not need irrigation. The average number of heads that could be capped or turned off over my 15 evaluations was 10. Residents could save 175 gallons per week or more just by capping those 10 heads[1].

Most residents are surprised to find clogged, broken, or otherwise malfunctioning sprinkler heads, in part because sprinkler systems run in the early morning hours when no one is awake to observe them. Inspect your irrigation system by running each zone and observing each sprinkler head to check if it needs capping. We recommend that you do this at least once per year. You will be surprised at the number (and type) of issues you find that are costing you money and wasting water.

For more information on irrigation evaluations, irrigation evaluation training, or Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, please contact UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County at 941-861-5000 or sarasota@ifas.ufl.edu.

[1] The average sprinkler head produces 0.5 gallons per minute and the average runtime for a sprinkler is 25 minutes (Boyer and Dukes https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae515).

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