SFWMD modifies agricultural, commercial water restrictions

In response to improved regional water resource conditions, the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District has modified emergency water restrictions to provide agricultural, commercial and recreational facilities more flexibility for water use. The modifications take into account heavy rainfall that has helped replenish the District's 16-county system, which received an average of 22.53 inches of rainfall so far between July and September...

• Conservation remains vital for long-term regional water supply

WEST PALM BEACH, FL, Sept. 11, 2008 -- In response to improved regional water resource conditions, the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) today modified emergency water restrictions to provide agricultural, commercial and recreational facilities more flexibility for water use. Today's modifications take into account heavy rainfall that has helped replenish the District's 16-county system, which received an average of 22.53 inches of rainfall so far between July and September.

The emergency water restrictions were implemented to protect public water supply amid a record-breaking drought and water shortage that began in 2006. In January 2008, the District implemented one-day-a-week watering restrictions region-wide for the first time in the agency's history, based on the extreme water shortage conditions and a continued rainfall deficit of close to 25 inches. The restrictions were later modified to two-day-a-week watering. The District uses its emergency authority to implement and modify water restrictions and bases these decisions on the status of the region's water resources.

"The Board's action today was prudent given the improved conditions," said Eric Buermann, SFWMD Governing Board Chairman. "This will help alleviate some of the challenges faced by agriculture, business and recreational facilities while still maintaining a conservation ethic and recognizing that residential landscapes have benefited from the summer rainfall pattern."

The modified restrictions recognize that farmers, golf courses, plant nurseries and related operations already have water conservation plans in place that benefit the regional water supply. Those plans are required by the SFWMD before water use permits are approved.

Two-day-a-week residential landscape restrictions remain in place. For residents, the deluge from Tropical Storm Fay and wet season rainfall means lawns do not need irrigation. Irrigating on two days or less is sufficient to keep lawns healthy.

The residential irrigation measures do allow more water for new plantings; they do not impact vehicle washing, boat rinsing or pressure cleaning. Users of 100-percent reclaimed water are exempt from the restrictions but are encouraged to conserve water voluntarily.

Conservation Need Continues to Grow
South Florida received a considerable amount of rainfall since Tropical Storm Fay, supplementing the two-day-a-week irrigation schedule currently in place. The District emphasizes that conservation measures remain critical to ensure water is available to meet future needs.

According to the latest U.S. Geological Survey water use report:
• South Florida residents average 179 gallons per person per day -- the highest usage in the state.
• It is estimated that up to one-half of water use goes to outdoor irrigation.
• More than 50 percent of the water applied to lawns is lost to evaporation or run-off because of over-watering.

By 2025, six million new residents are projected to make Florida their home, swelling the state's population to more than 24 million. More than half of the new residents will settle in South Florida. At the same time, South Florida's demand for fresh water is projected to increase to 4.3 billion gallons per day -- a 22 percent increase.

South Florida's economic growth is intertwined with weather extremes. Based on records dating to 1932, the years 2006 and 2007 were the driest back-to-back calendar years on record, creating a combined rainfall deficit of more than 20 inches.

Then, in the span of about a week under Tropical Storm Fay that made landfall in South Florida on August 18:
• Rainfall ranged from about 5 inches in parts of Miami-Dade County to more than 10 inches in the Caloosahatchee Basin and Hendry County.
• Lake Okeechobee rose more than two feet in a single week for the first time in recorded history, based on records dating back to 1931.

"After the wet season ends, drought conditions could potentially return as quickly as they dissipated. The South Florida Water Management District has to be visionary about the way we approach water resources in Florida," said Carol Ann Wehle, SFWMD Executive Director. "Our responsibility is to plan for months and even years ahead to ensure an adequate and reliable supply of water for South Florida."

The South Florida Water Management District is a regional, governmental agency that oversees the water resources in the southern half of the state -- 16 counties from Orlando to the Keys. It is the oldest and largest of the state's five water management districts.

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