Citrus County commissioners have a message for their water customers in Citrus Hills and other central communities:
Irrigation isn’t necessary 12 months a year.
Commissioners hope the message resonates to keep the county from violating a water usage permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
About 8,500 customers who draw water from the Charles A. Black wellfield are using enough water that the county is violating its permit, utilities director Ken Cheek told commissioners on Tuesday.
The water district has made no attempt at enforcing the permit, Cheek said. But commissioners should be aware that water use continues to climb in Citrus Hills, Terra Vista, Black Diamond and Meadowcrest, Cheek said.
The culprit, Cheek said, is irrigation. A two-day usage chart in October shows water spikes very early in the day and again in the evening, suggesting customers are watering lawns and landscaping regularly throughout the year.
Citrus has had twice-a-week watering regulations since 2017. It is permitted for maximum annual pumping that serve three areas: Citrus Springs/Pine Ridge, Sugarmill Woods and Citrus Hills.
Cheek said Sugarmill Woods had long been a problem area for exceeding the water permit. He cited several measures for the drop in water usage, including leak detection systems and meters that can alert the county when homeowners are violating the watering rules.
Those meters, however, are not installed in other parts of the county, though they will be phased in during the next few years.
Cheek said he knows of two instances of water restrictions in other parts of the state. The St. Johns Water Management District limits watering to once a week between November and March; Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties have year-round once-a-week watering.
Commissioners said they want to reduce water use, but said the public should first have a chance to do that on their own.
Cheek said he will continue to monitor the situation and return with an update.