Keeping it green: Now is the time to go Florida-friendly

Article Courtesy of  Citrus County Chronicle

Published July 15, 2020        



THE ISSUE: Hot, dry weather continues despite rain.

OUR OPINION: Conservation, change in landscaping would help.

Hot enough for ya?

Recent storms, downpours, drizzles and sun showers aside, Citrus County is still seeing dangerous heat levels, and water levels are going down in area lakes and the Withlacoochee River.

With temperatures scorching and water levels dropping, the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners imposed once-per-week watering restrictions effective June 23. The watering restrictions also realigned watering dates with house numbers.

But should we practice water conservation even when we are getting rain?

Yes. According to national meteorologists, prolonged extreme heat is baking most places in the U.S. and they see no relief in sight. And they predict next week is likely to be worse than this week.

According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, Florida is among those states likely to be warmer than normal for the last two weeks of July, traditionally the hottest time of year.

Several years ago, the Southwest Florida Water Management District — SWFWMD — said that water availability in our area wouldn’t teeter over into crisis if everyone practiced conservation. And the state legislature helped with laws protecting homeowner rights to practice water-saving efforts, within the guidance envelope of their homeowners’ and property owners’ associations.

SWFWMD wasn’t able to enforce its efforts for conservation and the population just wasn’t willing to conserve.

Many residents remain unwilling to abide by — or are at least resistant to — efforts such as watering restrictions, primarily citing damage to expensive landscaping from the heat and dry weather.

Given the size of many lots in some of our private communities, it is understandable owners would be frustrated with watering restrictions during hot, dry times. Huge lots take a dedicated amount of maintenance and although that can be expensive, it can be more expensive to have to replace massive amounts of burned, dead grass and plants.

Nonetheless, water restrictions are a short-term measure for a long-term problem that will get worse with time. But what other alternatives do we have to keep the well from going dry?

If it keeps raining, great. If it doesn’t, what can be done?

The county needs to look at code changes and incentives to move away from green lawns. One solution, touted for many years, is more implementation of Florida-friendly landscaping.

And the push for Florida-friendly landscaping, should come from the state level. Homeowner groups tend to hijack the rules and force people to have large, manicured lawns that need lots of water. If there were a rule that a certain percentage of every lawn had to have Florida-friendly landscaping, then water consumption would decrease substantially.

Honestly, do we need yards that look like golf courses? How about yards showcasing our distinctive, beautiful native flora?

Punitive measures and disincentives must be applied to enforce the rules. We must practice conservation and embrace Florida-friendly landscaping.

After all, think about what happened with toilet paper when there was no need for panic. What would happen if people started turning the tap on but nothing came out?