Article by UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Urban Horticulture Agent Lorna Bravo
To make a difference concerning the issues surrounding water quality and quantity in our urban landscapes, we must understand how we interact and connect with water in urban environments.
The United Nations world urbanization prospects revision estimated that by 2050, 6.5 billion people will live in cities. Globally, more than half of the population lives in urban areas. This population estimate is double what it is today, experiencing a dramatic move away from rural areas with excessive urban population growth (un.org, 2014). Florida, the third most populous state, reached a population of more than 21 million in 2018 and is projected to exceed 31 million in 2050. Challenges from increased urbanization and resource demands in cities worsen by shifting land use and the growing impacts of climate change and economic fluctuations.
Broward County is entirely urban and considered “built out.” Environmental engagement and outreach are priorities in our extension programming concerning water quality and quantity issues in our urban communities. Given that over 1,700 miles of canals are found in Broward County, stormwater and irrigation runoff, contaminant with nutrient leaching, pose significant threats to water quality. We know from studies that as Florida’s population growth and water demands increase, the Florida landscape will play a vital role in future water demands.
As urban communities grow, how can we accommodate growth and protect and preserve Florida’s waters and fragile environment?
What is the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program?
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) program operates under the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology (CLCE). Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences – UF/IFAS (ufl.edu). It is supported by the Florida Department of Environmental protection (FDEP). The Florida Friendly Landscaping program is an educational outreach program informing homeowners and professionals how they can be more environmentally friendly with their landscape care practices. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program’s mission is to educate Floridians about science-based, environmentally friendly landscaping practices. It encourages them to conserve and protect our water resources by applying its nine principles.
The Water Ambassador Program
Building a volunteer program to educate the community on Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles and having a well-trained volunteer force is vital for strengthening communities to protect and preserve Florida’s waters and fragile environment. In Broward County, we launched the first Master Gardener Volunteer Water Ambassador program in 2020 to cultivate community change in urban environments and become stewards of our local natural resources.
This new program uses expert presentations, online explorations, experiential learning, field experience in water trends, soil water science, and visits to different models of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ in South Florida. The 6-week workshop covers communication skills training to foster a greater understanding of these interactions and provide the tools necessary to become stewards of our water resources. Participants travel across Broward County and the Everglades to explore the natural beauty, learn about emerging urban water issues, and meet with local experts.
Did you know that 90% of Florida’s freshwater comes from the underground aquifer system?
During the course, the class visits the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Davie, Florida, to learn about our local water trends and sources.
Were you aware that the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is the oldest and largest of the state’s five water management districts?
It manages water resources in a 16-county region stretching from Orlando to the Florida Keys, serving a population of 9 million. Class participants travel across Broward County to learn about emerging urban water issues and meet with local experts.
SFWMD takes the class on tour and learns about our stormwater treatment areas, labs, structures, and pump stations to learn the science behind Everglade’s restoration and resiliency efforts
There is only ONE Everglades in the world.
Ever-increasing population growth and industry in south Florida have resulted in large metropolitan areas and rising tensions in the surrounding natural environments.
During the class, we learn about our beautiful Everglades and tree islands with the Miccosukee tribe to discover the natural beauty, learn about emerging water issues, and discuss ways to play our part in protecting our precious local natural resources, such as the Everglades.
“The impact of actually seeing the natural beauty of the Everglades and how close it is to the expressway and urban area was HUGE!”- Water Ambassador Class Participant 2022
As urban areas increase in Florida, introducing Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles in our yards is one way to protect Florida’s bodies of water. Since 2020, Broward County’s Water Ambassadors have understood how we interact and connect with water and the importance of protecting it. They are educating their communities on the importance of adopting Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles to minimize stormwater and irrigation runoff, contaminants with nutrient leaching, which poses significant threats to water quality. Recognizing the home landscape as part of a more extensive natural system will help us make sound decisions in creating Florida-Friendly Landscapes. It helps protect Florida’s natural environment for future generations.
- Since 2020, Broward County Water Ambassadors have inspected and recognized 20 residential Florida-Friendly Landscapes resulting in a combined estimated water savings of 4,676,859 gallons of water annually in Broward County based on extension clients’ reported landscape behavior changes. This savings is enough water to supply fifty-four households with water per year (based on the average of 88,000 gallons per household per year).
- Ten Water Ambassadors (MGVs) became the first Florida Friendly Landscape Certified Professionals (FFLCP) in Southeast Florida after attending the 2020 Water Ambassador program. This accreditation verified their knowledge of sustainable landscape design, practices, and strategies with a “water” focused plan and a thorough understanding of the University of Florida’s FFL Program supporting water conservation practice.
- In 2021, the Broward County Water Ambassador Program received The Outstanding Collaboration State Award (Agent & MGV) for exemplary educational efforts and support of the Florida Friendly LandscapingTM state program.
- 2014 revision of the World Urbanization Prospects | Latest Major Publications – United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
- Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences – UF/IFAS (ufl.edu)
Working with Water Connects Us all.
What motivates people to adopt and model sustainable landscape practices in their urban landscapes?
Interested in Joining our Water Ambassador Course and having your yard become the next Florida-Friendly landscape? Contact us.
- Sign the Pledge: FFL Pledge – Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences – UF/IFAS (ufl.edu)
- Email: Lorna Bravo@firstname.lastname@example.org or Anthony Gross @email@example.com