Living with water restrictions

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By Michael D. Bates

Now that the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) has imposed stricter watering restrictions, is it still possible for homeowners to maintain a nice lawn?

Definitely, says B.J. Jarvis, director of the Citrus County Extension office. And her staff is ready to help gardeners deal with the new regulations.

The SWFWMD board voted last week to increase water restrictions throughout the region. The board reduced lawn watering to once-per-week and also decreased allowable watering hours. Micro-irrigation and hand watering of non-lawn areas are still allowed any day. Additionally, there are now limits on car washing and homeowners’ associations may not enforce any deed restrictions which could cause an increase in water use. The restrictions will remain in effect through August 1, 2017.

The tougher regulations are in effect for Citrus and 15 other counties in SWFWMD’s jurisdiction. District hydrologists report a rainfall deficit of 11 inches since the start of the dry season last October. In fact, this is the driest dry season in the past 103 years.

“With two-thirds of our state in a drought condition, it is understandable that SWFWMD took additional measures to encourage water conservation,” Jarvis said. “There are a number of things that gardeners can do to help assure that their lawn and landscapes survive this stressful time.”

Jarvis provided the Chronicle with these tips:

* Mow grass with sharp mower blades. Dull blades result in torn leaves that lose more moisture and allow entry for disease organisms

* Try never to mow more than one-third of the grass blades at a time.

* Don’t fertilize. It takes energy and water to process fertilizer. Delay this until after the rainy season starts.

* If turf is irrigated, apply the correct amount. Overwatering doesn’t help in the county’s sandy soils. Proper watering delivers between one-half to three-quarters of water per cycle run.

* If has rained in the period a few days before the assigned irrigation day, don’t water again. More plants, especially lawns, are damaged from too much water than too little.

* Assure landscape beds have a 2 to 3 inch layer of natural mulch, such as pine nuggets or Melaleuca mulch (sold locally under the Flori-mulch label). This helps retain moisture and reduce weed development that competes with desirable plants for available moisture.

* Delay major landscape renovations until the rainy season starts. ​

* For plants that appear to have suffered, water until the rainy season is well underway to determine plant health. Where replacements are needed, choose drought-tolerant plants to save headaches later.

* When irrigating, water in the morning to reduce moisture loss to wind and evaporation.

Jarvis said homeowners can call the Citrus County Extension Office at (352) 527-5712 for more information.

And for a breakdown of the new SWFWMD restrictions and more tips to conserve water, visit www.swfwmd.state.fl.us.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-5660, or by email at mbates@chronicleonline.com.


* Micro-irrigation (also called drip irrigation) of the landscape saves water because it targets the root zone of plants. It irrigates 50 percent or less area, minimizes water lost to evaporation and slows weed growth.

Source: Southwest Florida Water Management District