THE ISSUE: County mulls water rules.
OUR OPINION: Watering restriction exemption plea shortsighted.
With 1,000 new residents daily, Florida’s ballooning population will exceed the continent of Australia by 2026. Coupled with well over 100 million visitors annually, the demands on our steadily shrinking water resources make a culture of conservation essential to the state’s future water supply.
Nonetheless, some property owners in the Citrus Hills community of Terra Vista apparently think otherwise.
Understandably taking pride in the appearance of their community and protective of the investment in their lush, green lawns, some Terra Vista residents recently pleaded for the county commission to lift the county’s year-round, once-a-week watering restriction for their community.
Arguing that the Terra Vista developer encourages maintained lawns by providing irrigation-only wells to property owners, the community’s spokespersons asked the commissioners to exempt Terra Vista’s irrigation wells from the county’s watering restriction.
Regrettably, their shortsighted plea struck a sympathetic note with county commissioners Jeff Kinnard and Holly Davis. Both indicated they would favor exemptions for communities that receive their irrigation water from a separate permitted well system with Kinnard noting, “It does not look like we have a water-use problem. We have a permit issue.”
Water conservation is the principal means by which the water management districts accomplish their missions of public water supply and sustainment of water dependent ecosystems with its most important tool the daily gallons per capita per day permitted for counties and municipalities.
In this regard, nowhere does water conservation make a greater difference than reducing the amount of lawn watering. With the average household irrigation system using more than 3,500 gallons of water per complete cycle, lawn watering twice a week is a hefty 28,000 gallons of water per month. As such, lawn watering typically accounts for 50% of the water consumed by Florida households.
Given the enormous demand of lawn watering on our finite public water supply and its harmful impact on our complex ecosystems that are dependent on freshwater to clean pollutants and a certain water level to function, exempting Terra Vista’s irrigation wells from the county’s water use restriction would be tantamount to shooting ourselves in the foot.
Foremost, it would be a step backward from the culture of conservation that has been nurtured for decades to effectively slow increases in freshwater withdrawals.
Secondly, it would give the appearance of selective enforcement and, as acknowledged by Commissioners Scott Carnahan and Ronald Kitchen Jr., likely raise a hue and cry for exemption from individual homeowners who have permitted irrigation wells.
Although Citrus County is surrounded by natural waterways, the amount of water under us is directly related to the use of water for lawns. Thus, unrestricted lawn watering, whether from a private irrigation well or public utility is a luxury, not a necessity.
County commissioners, therefore, are urged to reinforce the message that conservation matters by addressing demand as the root cause of water overuse — not the protestations of a few who only see green lawns and not the water under all of us.