Water conservation: Everyday people are helping to make every drop count

eirdre Irwin shows Miky Ynirio how to adjust her lawn sprinkler timer

St. Johns River Water Management District Water Conservation Coordinator Deirdre Irwin (right) shows Miky Ynirio how to adjust her lawn sprinkler timer to efficiently water while following year-round watering restrictions.

In March 2019, Miky Ynirio traded in New Jersey’s frigid winters for endless summer in Orlando.

The single mother moved to Waterford Lakes, a sprawling residential community on the city’s east side. Adjusting to the new climate was easy, but the fluctuation in her monthly water bill was another matter.

“When I moved here, I didn’t know what to expect with regard to water and utilities,” Ynirio says. “In New Jersey, my landlord paid for the water.”

Ynirio’s first water bill was $30, but it jumped to $160 the following month. She was flabbergasted. Ynirio called Orange County Utilities to understand why her bill was so high. The culprit, it appeared, was her lawn sprinkler system. Ynirio, like many newcomers to Florida unaccustomed to thirsty St. Augustine turf, didn’t know that outdoor irrigation accounts for more than half of an average homeowner’s daily water use in the Sunshine State.

I’m spreading the news to all of my friends and neighbors.

Miky Ynirio

Ynirio learned that Orange County Utilities offers a free course called the Water Wise Neighbor Program, a comprehensive residential water conservation program. Gigi Hernandez, the utility’s incentives coordinator, suggested Ynirio enroll in the course to learn how she could cut down on her outdoor water use and lower her monthly water bill.

“This class walks them through a step-by–step process of many ways to conserve water, based on their own individual usage,” Hernandez says. “I also go through the information on where our Florida water comes and how it gets to your home; lastly just assuring they understand how precious this resource is and that we should conserve it.”

Ynirio describes the class as “awesome.” The Water Wise Neighbor Program provided her with a “smart” lawn-watering controller, high-efficiency sprinkler heads and ideas for her family to conserve water indoors as well. She can also now control her irrigation system from her mobile phone, making it a snap to change settings and shut off the system when it rains.

“My sprinkler was running twice a week for 30 minutes,” says Ynirio. “After taking the course, I put some of my zones down to 20 minutes so I am using less water.”

The St. Johns River Water Management District provides financial support for the Water Wise Neighbor Program, in part, because it can have an exponential impact on Orange County Utility customers.

“We realize that not everyone hears the district when we urge them to conserve water, for instance to ‘Skip A Week’ of lawn irrigation in winter,” says Deirdre Irwin, the St. Johns River Water Management District’s water conservation coordinator. “Studies show that when individuals discuss their own water-saving actions with neighbors, that has much more impact.”

Ynirio expects to see a drop in her future water bills, which makes her feel empowered. She’s also eager to share her newfound knowledge about Florida’s precious underground water resources, which she realizes are finite and must be consumed responsibly.

“I’m spreading the news to all of my friends and neighbors,” she says. “When I moved here, I didn’t really think about where our water came from. Now, I want to help others protect our water resources and save money too.”

Are you an Orange County Utility customer? Visit http://www.occonservewater.net/ for more information about the Water Wise Neighbor Program.