The Florida Water StarSM Program makes ‘GOLD’ even better
Feb. 16, 2023
This Florida Water Star-certified home features water-efficient landscaping (left). Inspectors verify water savings of a home’s fixtures.
How do you improve on gold? If you’re talking about the Florida Water StarSM program, a better gold incorporates steps homeowners can take toward protecting water quality and providing wildlife habitat, as well as conserving water.
Florida Water StarSM is a point-based home certification program like the federal ENERGY STAR® program but focusing on water conservation practices both inside the home and in the landscape.
The St. Johns River Water Management District teamed up with the University of Florida’s Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program to update the gold tier certification of the Florida Water StarSM program. The highest-level certification now includes landscaping criteria that protect water quality and encourage using native and non-invasive plants. It’s called Florida-Friendly Water StarSM Gold, and the updated certification officially became part of the program in January 2023.
All certification levels encourage water efficiency in household appliances, plumbing fixtures, irrigation systems and landscapes. Modifications to the gold tier include the following:
Water quality criteria
- The use of pervious surfaces to allow stormwater to percolate into the soil
- Gutters/downspouts directed toward landscaping
- For properties bordering a water body, the use of planted terraces, swales or berms to minimize the amount of stormwater entering the water
- The addition of green stormwater infrastructure on the property
- The use of soil amendments prior to planting
Florida-Friendly Landscaping criteria
- A diversity of plants used in the landscape
- A larger number of Florida native plant species
- The use and placement of plants compatible with the site, including appropriate sunlight, soil type and salinity
- The use of trees to provide shade and reduce evapotranspiration
Ensuring an irrigation system functions properly is among items reviewed by Florida Water Star inspectors.
Additionally, if the home has an in-ground irrigation system, a Florida-Friendly Water StarSM Gold level home must have a smart irrigation controller and meet a prescribed water budget.
These updates include support for homeowners’ post-certification. “A certification is good at a single point in time,” explains St. Johns River Water Management District Water Conservation Coordinator Deirdre Irwin. “For example, just because a home has a smart irrigation controller, it doesn’t mean that the controller is set to maximize efficient use.”
Gold-level certification now also includes outreach from landscape experts at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who can support homeowners with information to help manage their irrigation system and maintain their landscape according to Florida-Friendly Best Management Practices.
Florida Water StarSM integrates with other programs such as ENERGY STAR, the Florida Green Building Coalition’s (FGBC) green standards, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED program and the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program.
Builders can work with the Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA) Certified Ratings Program to certify homes to Florida Water StarSM requirements. Homebuyers interested in purchasing Florida Water StarSM homes can find certified homes through the Green Building Registry.
“The more we can build new homes to meet Florida-Friendly Water StarSM Gold criteria, the greater the impact we will have on protecting Florida’s water quality and quantity,” says Irwin. “We’re literally working together to build a better future for ourselves and future generations.”
Florida Water StarSM sends ripples through social media
A brand-new Florida Water StarSM (FWS) social media campaign kicked off in January in portions of the Central Florida Water Initiative region.
The FWS campaign encourages homebuyers to ask their builders and realtors about FWS when purchasing a new home. Prior to developing the campaign, builders provided feedback that they will construct FWS-certified homes when consumers ask for it. From there, the “Florida’s Water, It’s Worth Saving — Ask for a Florida Water Star Home” messaging was created.
The campaign includes updates to the FWS website, a new FWS Facebook page and targeted online advertising to reach new homebuyers who are looking to build an environmentally friendly, money-saving home featuring water conservation. In addition, the program will offer six classes throughout the state to educate landscape and irrigation professionals on how to design and install water-efficient landscapes and irrigation systems.
FWS is a water conservation certification program for residential, commercial and community developments. The program began in 2006 and is now statewide with collaboration among the St. Johns River, South Florida and Southwest Florida water management districts, as well as the Florida Green Building Coalition. More than 8,000 homes have been FWS-certified through the end of 2022, meeting criteria that include water-conserving indoor fixtures and appliances, efficient irrigation, and low-maintenance landscapes designed for Florida’s environment.