Partnering in water conservation
June 8, 2023
Water conservation isn’t about scarcity, it’s about ensuring there’s enough water in our aquifer for our use today and in the future without causing harm to the places we enjoy. The St. Johns River Water Management District partners with utilities throughout our 18-county service area in Florida to protect our water supply.
Why conserve water?
Water conservation is a cornerstone of our water supply planning process. Conservation reduces the wasteful, uneconomical, impractical or unreasonable use of water. This is the water that all of Florida relies on: it’s what we drink, where we play and relax, and how we support the wild places and wildlife that surround us.
The Floridan aquifer provides nearly all (90%) of the freshwater used by Floridians as well as supplies cities like Savannah and Brunswick in Georgia to the north. The aquifer system is huge, stretching across an area of approximately 100,000 square miles beneath all of Florida and parts of southeastern Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina — it is one of the most productive aquifers in the world.
Although expansive and complex, the aquifer is not an infinite source. If too much water is pulled out of the aquifer, Florida’s springs, lakes, rivers and wetlands that support diverse natural systems and recreation begin to deteriorate. Throughout the aquifer, a layer of saltwater lies below the freshwater and excessive pumping leads to saltwater intrusion and the increased cost needed to treat our water supply.
Water management districts throughout the state balance communities’ needs for freshwater with protecting natural resources. They do this with permits that regulate the amount of water that utilities (and anyone requesting a new, modified or renewed permit) can pump from the aquifers. The districts take many factors into consideration when issuing permits, including population growth, demands on natural resources, and per capita use, among others. And, whenever a utility requests a modification or renewal of their permit, a water conservation plan is a requirement for approval.
The District shares information on the importance of saving water in a variety of ways, including talking with visitors to community events.
Making every drop count
Utilities vary the strategies and steps to implement their water conservation plans, but they generally have the following:
- Public education: From information online to bill stuffers, speaking to schools and community groups, and reaching out directly to high water users, utilities promote water conservation efforts through education.
- Outdoor water conservation: In Florida, residents can make the greatest gains in water conservation by cutting back on excessive irrigation. Your utility may have information or rebates for purchasing Water Sense®-labeled irrigation controllers, water-saving nozzles and drip irrigation. Some utilities even offer rebates to remove grass and replace it with Florida-Friendly Landscaping.
- Tiered rate structures: To promote water conservation, utilities charge less per gallon for low-water users. When water use reaches a certain threshold, the cost per gallon increases. Increasing use can lead to exponential increases in a water bill.
- Water loss reduction: Utilities have hundreds of miles of pipes and infrastructure, so leak detection (and response) is critical. Some utilities even have programs that alert them to potential leaks at their customers’ home or business.
- Indoor water conservation: Newer, water-efficient plumbing fixtures have helped Americans save 6.4 trillion gallons of water from 2007 to the end of 2021. Utilities often offer customer rebates for purchasing water-saving toilets, shower heads and household appliances.
How can you save?
Contact your local utility to learn more about their water conservation programs and incentives that can benefit you as a customer. Also, visit our website for tips at www.sjrwmd.com/water-conservation and WaterLessFlorida.com. You may also want to:
- Evaluate your irrigation system for leaks and how often you are running the system.
- Water less. It’s the number one way to reduce your use.
- Consider a smart irrigation controller to better manage your irrigation schedule.
Your efforts to protect our water supply by reducing water waste can ensure our aquifer continues to provide freshwater for people and natural resources.
Individuals can help save water by ensuring their automatic irrigation systems are set to follow the watering restrictions and only using when the lawn and landscape show signs of needing supplemental water.