Message from Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle

Water use survey encouraging but work remains

July 16, 2020

Person working on an irrigation system
Water conservation measures, such as ensuring your automatic sprinkler system spray heads work properly and are clear of debris, are helping to save water resources.

Water conservation and the expanded use of reclaimed water can help offset the amount of fresh groundwater that we use in Florida each day, benefitting our region’s population and our unique environment. What we are collectively doing today to protect our water will move the needle if we continue to focus on conserving this precious resource.

The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Annual Water Use Survey for 2019 was presented to our Governing Board this week. The survey shows that the District has seen measurable water use declines during the past 10 years. Despite a 15 percent increase in population in our 18-county District from 2010–2019, the total water use has dropped by 9 percent.

In 2019, the largest category of water use was public supply at 544.56 million gallons per day (mgd) or about 56 percent of all water use. This category covers the water supplied by a public or private water utility for use in our homes and businesses. Districtwide, utilities supply water to approximately 4.68 million people, or 84 percent of the District’s population. The second largest category of water use was agriculture at 201.98 mgd, or 20 percent.

The report contains other information about water use in our District (2010–2019):

  • Public Supply water use increased 1 percent (537.24 mgd to 544.56 mgd) during the 10-year period but is down 4 percent since 2018.
  • At the same time, total population increased 15 percent (3.5 million to 5.2 million people)
  • Gross per capita per day (gpcd) has decreased 12 percent (132 gpcd to 116 gpcd)
  • Residential per capita has decreased 47 percent (165 gpcd to 88 gpcd)
  • Districtwide, 217 mgd of reclaimed water was used for beneficial uses

The District’s Bureau of Water Supply Planning team is among staff who track water use and impacts, encourage efficient water use, and plan for sustainable water supplies. Stability in our water use can be attributed to effective water conservation plus the beneficial use of reclaimed water.

Utilities in the District now see reclaimed water as an asset instead of something that requires disposal. Since 2014, approximately 50 percent of all wastewater treatment flows in the District were reused for beneficial purposes, such as landscape irrigation at golf courses, parks, highway medians and residential properties, industrial uses such as cooling and fire protection, and for wetlands creation, restoration and enhancement.

What each of us does at our homes and businesses to conserve water — turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, installing water-efficient appliances and fixtures, following our Water Less advice and letting Mother Nature water your lawn — has a big impact. These and other small changes plus the increasing use of reclaimed water resulted in more than 250 mgd of water that otherwise would have been taken from fresh groundwater.

Looking toward the future, trends show us that total water use across the District could increase from 986 million gallons per day now to 1.3 billion gallons per day by 2040 as our population continues to grow. This means we all must do everything we can to conserve water at every opportunity and stay focused on our important work to manage and protect Florida’s precious water resources.

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