Apparently, it's more convenient to Florida residents to save water while brushing their teeth than to cut back on lawn irrigation, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension report.
Alexa Lamm, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication and Extension specialist, surveyed 932 people deemed to be high-water users in Orlando, Tampa/Sarasota and Miami/Fort Lauderdale.
Respondents were asked how often they engage in water-related behaviors. Among the results, 68 percent saved water when brushing their teeth, but only 29 percent reduced irrigating their lawns in the summer, according to a recent report.
To put this data into context, about 50 percent of Floridians' daily water use is for outdoor purposes, such as landscape irrigation, according to the South Florida Water Management District. The 50 percent figure is 20 percent more than the national average, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In Lamm's opinion, homeowners' association rules -- which often require lush landscapes -- are part of the reason homeowners won't reduce their outdoor watering. But she said there's probably more to it than that.
"It is easier to save water indoors," Lamm said. "You can turn off the faucet easily when washing dishes or only run your dishwasher and laundry when they are full."
But when it comes to their sprinkler system, some homeowners are more hesitant and will probably rely on either the installer to have done it correctly or the person that maintains their yard to manage it, she said.
"This puts their decision-making in the hands of others," Lamm said. "The second reason is because I believe, and the literature says, many move to Florida for the lush, green lifestyle it represents. When homeowners move from another part of the U.S., where they had brown lawns a significant part of the year, they want a lawn that is pretty and green year-round because they can here. They are willing to pay to have it and may not be thinking about the environmental consequences."
Homeowners can do a lot to become more environmentally friendly, Lamm said. They can:
• Learn more about their irrigation system to ensure it is working properly. • Manage the amount of fertilizer they use to ensure it is applied appropriately. • Make their outdoor systems don't leak. • Install moisture sensors. • Get more engaged and be part of the decision-making process.
In addition to the data being useful for homeowners, Lamm hopes it helps UF/IFAS Extension educators.
They can work with water management districts, local governments and utility companies to develop sound policy that will assist in saving water while maintaining the lifestyle we all enjoy in Florida.
"Extension faculty can teach homeowner's how to manage their technology and tell them it doesn't have to be a scary, unknown thing that is outside and not thought about," she said. "They can also assist in developing incentive programs related to outdoor water use -- installing sensors, rain barrels and replacing landscapes so they are Florida Friendly, just like we have done with indoor water use through water conserving appliances -- toilets and showerheads."
Materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Original written by Brad Buck. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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