Even in Florida, lawns and landscapes take a break during the winter and naturally go dormant. During December, January and February, landscapes typically need less irrigation, so now is a great time to train your lawn to sip water instead of guzzling it.
On Dec. 3, the St. Johns River Water Management District launched its winter “Skip A Week” water conservation campaign and is asking everyone to voluntarily skip every other week of lawn watering. If property owners who irrigate skipped every other week of watering this winter, North and East-Central Florida could save more than a billion gallons of water. An added benefit is the reduction of irrigation water that runs off our lawns and carries nutrients with it to natural waterbodies such as the St. Johns River and Doctors Lake.
We are pleased that Clay County Utility Authority is joining us in the Skip A Week campaign. CCUA has been an outstanding utility partner on numerous cost-share projects and water conservation initiatives. CCUA also is a leader in expanding the reuse of reclaimed water (highly treated wastewater) in Northeast Florida, which saves fresh drinkable water for use in homes and businesses and provides a safe, environmentally responsible alternative to wastewater disposal. We applaud CCUA’s leadership and welcome them as a partner in this annual winter water conservation awareness effort.
Lawn and landscape irrigation accounts for more than half of all residential water use, so it is important to follow year-round watering restrictions that help ensure the efficient use of water. Research shows, one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water per irrigation zone every 10–14 days is sufficient during winter months.
Skipping every other week is as easy as manually turning off your irrigation system. Using less water encourages roots to grow deeper, which makes them more drought-tolerant and less susceptible to pests and disease. However, if you see signs that your grass needs water, such as wilting blades, manually turn on your irrigation system, saturate the root zone and then let the soil dry, which encourages healthy, deep root growth.
In addition to cutting back on outdoor irrigation during the winter, please remember that irrigation is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. year-round. Much of the water sprinkled on lawns during the hottest part of the day is lost to evaporation. However, when you water before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., the water can seep into the ground, promoting healthy plants that establish deep root systems.
Year-round restrictions apply to lawn and landscape irrigation not regulated by a district-issued consumptive use permit. Typically, this includes individual homes, businesses, government and commercial locations. The rule applies regardless if the water comes from a private well, a private or public utility, or a surface water body.
Each of us plays an important role in conserving water for Florida’s future – your help is critical in meeting the current and future water supply needs of our region. You can learn more about Skip a Week on our website at www.sjrwmd.com/skipaweek. You’ll also find tips on year-round water conservation and efficient irrigation at www.sjrwmd.com/water-conservation.
Ann B. Shortelle, Ph.D.
St. Johns River Water Management District