Florida is expected to grow by another 15 million people by the year 2070, according to the Florida 2070 Project. This means more homes, more yards with permanent in-ground sprinkler systems and a greater impact to the state’s water supply.
To conserve water, programs must be in place to accurately measure consumption and understand where we have opportunities to save water. A UF/IFAS program recently published data that provides a benchmark for understanding water use.
The goal of the program, H2OSAV, is to help measurably save Florida water. H2OSAV conducts research using metered water data to look for trends in water use and find opportunities to save water. The Extension program shares their research to help utilities, Extension agents, homeowners, and other stakeholders better understand how water is used in Florida.
Their most recent research shared the basics of water use to highlight the best opportunity to save water: irrigation. “We really want homeowners to understand the impact their landscape maintenance has on their water use,” said Nick Taylor, UF/IFAS state specialized Extension agent and leader of H2OSAV. “The highest water users are using about 72% of their water for irrigation. For many of these homes, they may be giving their lawn more water than it needs, which can attract pests and reduce drought tolerance.”
The program reports on counties around the state and started in Gainesville. The most recent reports covered Orange and Osceola counties.
In Orange County, the homes included in the study used an average of 299 gallons of water per day. To put that into perspective, that is like using 2,265 standard bottles of water every day.
Water use was divided into four groups. Low users, low-moderate users, moderate-high users and high users. The ‘high users’ group used 668 gallons per day on average. This group has the biggest impact on residential water use, and they’re using more water than the other homes combined.
“These are the people that can make the biggest difference,” said Taylor. “If these ‘high users’ cut back to the current average, it would save 20.5 million gallons of water a day in Orange County.”
After learning this, you may ask, “What are the highest water users using their water for? Why the stark contrast?” The key difference is in-ground irrigation systems and how they are set to run. On a typical quarter-acre lot set to deliver ½” of water, an in-ground irrigation system uses 2,000 gallons each time the lawn is watered.
“If you water your lawn, the best way to lower your utility bill and save water is to reduce your irrigation,” said Taylor.
Some ways to get started saving water are to:
- Look for common issues with the irrigation system. This includes leaks, vegetation blocking the sprinkler, and ensuring turf and landscape are irrigated in different zones.
- Only water the lawn when it needs it. There are AskIFAS resources that explain when to water the yard. Homeowners can also invest in technology that makes it easy for the lawn to get the water it needs. While it’s the law to have a working rain sensor device, there are also smart devices such as evapotranspiration (ET) and soil moisture sensor (SMS) controllers that ensure the lawn gets the amount of water it needs without overwatering. Your utility provider may even have rebates to help with the cost of purchasing these smart devices.
- Get an irrigation audit or inspection. Your utility provider or local UF/IFAS Extension office can help identify ways to reduce water use by providing a free irrigation audit or inspection.
For more information on the H2OSAV research in Orange County, visit the full published findings on AskIFAS. Utilizing Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is another way to reduce water consumption, learn more about these principles and what makes a Florida-Friendly yard.