Alachua County water conservation program wins national award

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GAINESVILLE — A horticulturist with Alachua County’s UF/IFAS Extension office will be recognized for her educational program by the National Association of County Agriculture Agents.

Wendy Wilber was selected as the national winner for the Search for Excellence Award in Landscape Horticulture for her development and implementation of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program in Alachua County.

She will receive the award and present her work in September at the association’s national conference in Pittsburgh.

The voluntary program promotes water quality by teaching and encouraging water conservation and pollution reduction in the home landscape. Started in 2007, the program has hosted the annual Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ tour, educating and inspiring some 580 participants.

In a follow-up survey of last year’s tour attendees, 56 percent of respondents reported adding or intending to add a rain barrel after their tour, each saving up to 600 gallons of water annually. More than half said they had eliminated at least one day a week from their lawn watering schedules.

The 64 survey respondents reported total savings of about 3.6 million gallons of water and more than $83,000 from reduced water bills in 2012 alone.

In addition to Florida-Friendly Landscapes, Wilber also coordinates the Master Gardener and 4-H Junior Master Gardener programs. As Alachua County’s environmental horticulture agent and UF Center for Landscape Ecology and Conservation faculty member, she promotes the creation and maintenance of environmentally friendly landscapes.