L. Sanderson, UF/IFAS Extension, Sumter County, Bushnell, FL
Situation: The water resources in Florida are at risk with a 2019 population estimate of 21.48 million people which is growing by almost 1,000 new residents daily. These new residents can exert pressure on Florida’s water resources. In Sumter County, the population growth is primarily in The Villages, a 55+ retirement community with approximately 48,000 homes. Expansion of The Villages is growing exponentially. The 2017 population estimate of The Villages is 125,165 residents, average age around 70. While some residents are native to Florida and understand Florida’s fragile resources and how to manage irrigation systems, the majority have moved to Florida from other parts of the United States or the world. The largest amount of water being used is on warm season turf in The Villages. Residents set their irrigation controls to run throughout the year. It is a difficult task to reach new residents of The Villages to teach about Florida’s fragile water resources and to practice efficient irrigation.
Methods: Twenty-four new resident workshops (“Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM for New Residents”) were held throughout the year at two locations in The Villages monthly. Participants were informed about efficient watering practices such as how much to water, adjusting for seasonal changes, and calibrating their lawn irrigation.
Results: A Qualtrics survey of participants indicated that the number of participants who adjusted irrigation to deliver ½” to ¾” at each irrigation doubled from 19% (n=54) to 38% (n=105), with 44% (n=91) calibrating their irrigation zones. Forty-percent (n=164) noted their water use decreased. Twenty-five percent of participants (n=103) set their systems on manual and water only as needed.
Conclusion: The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ for New Residents Workshops which reached 806 The Villages residents in 2019 pursues the transformation of water use in the largest population of Sumter County.