By Lynn Barber

Why should we care if we save potable water in the landscape? The University of Florida’s Water Initiatives state, “Florida’s Department of Environmental Protections (DEP) estimates that by 2020, Florida’s population is expected to increase 25 percent from 15.9 million residents today to about 21.8 million residents. Even though Florida averages 54 inches of rain per year, to meet this expected increased demand, Florida will need 9.1 billion gallons of fresh water per day, a 26.4 percent increase from today….As the demand continues to increase, water supply needs are already exceeding capacity in some areas of the state.”

So, each of us needs to consider ways we can save potable water in our landscapes. Here are some examples: Microirrigation is great for landscape beds, provides gallons per hour versus per minute from an inground irrigation system. Apply half an inch to three quarters of an inch of water per event (irrigation or rainfall) which is all plants need. Use a rain gauge to determine whether this amount has been reached and empty the rain gauge after viewing it. Florida Statute (2009) requires a functioning rain shutoff device where inground irrigation has been installed.

The life expectancy of some of these devices is one to five years. Is yours working? Plant drought-tolerant plants which require significantly less/minimal-to-no water after establishment.

Harvest rainwater to water ornamental plants, not edibles if captured from your roof. Plant groundcovers instead of turfgrass where turf is not purposeful because groundcovers require less
water, fertilizer and pesticides. Hydrozone your plants, meaning group plants according to their watering needs. Mulch landscape beds (2-3 inches deep after settling) because it retains moisture in the soil. If you are a high water user, 15,000 gallons per month or more, request a free irrigation evaluation from our office.

Bottom line: all of us have a stake in and impact the future. Conserving water in our landscapes is really an easy fix. For assistance with horticultural questions, call 744-5519 or visit the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 5339 County Rd. 579 in Seffner. More gardening and workshop information is available at hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu.