South Florida golf courses could get a break from emergency watering restrictions, despite warnings that the water supply strain continues.
The South Florida Water Management District since March has required golf courses in Broward and Palm Beach counties and other parts of southeast Florida to reduce water use 15 percent due to the lingering drought.
Also since March, homes and businesses throughout the region have been limited to a maximum of twice-a-week watering.
Now the district is allowing golf courses to apply for variances to the cutbacks that would allow more watering if those courses are planting new sod or doing other maintenance.
Just last week, district officials warned that underground water supplies remained too low to lift watering restrictions, despite steady summer rains.
"It hasn’t improved enough (to) say the coast is clear," district water-shortage incident commander Pete Kwiatkowski said one week ago.
But one week later the district plans to give golf courses a break during the time of year when fairways and greens are often replanted, requiring more watering.
The district defends the turnaround by saying that re-sodding golf courses can lead to planting more water-efficient grass and that doing it during rainy periods reduces the amount of irrigation needed for the planting.
Also, homes and businesses are already allowed additional watering when they replant new lawns.
Each golf course request for more watering will be "weighed with consideration to groundwater levels and other nearby water conditions," District Spokesman Randy Smith said Friday.
"Golf courses generally re-sod, change to more efficient grasses, and repair turf damage during the summer months when attendance at golf courses is reduced and precipitation is higher," Smith said.
Golf courses have until Oct. 31 to apply for additional watering.
The district’s nine-member board meets Thursday and will be asked to endorse or overrule the new policy for golf course watering.
Lake Okeechobee, South Florida’s primary backup water supply, remains three feet below normal. Without above normal rainfall the rest of this summer, the district has warned that the water shortage conditions could continue into the next winter-to-spring dry season.