Despite lingering drought conditions, South Florida water managers are so far resisting environmentalists’ call for tougher watering restrictions to try to stretch supplies.
A drier than normal start to the November-to-May dry season already prompted the South Florida Water Management District in March to impose emergency watering restrictions limiting all residents and businesses across the region to twice-a-week landscape watering.
Golf courses and agriculture were ordered to reduce water use 15 percent.
But environmentalists, including Audubon of Florida, contend the district needs to go further and consider cutting landscape irrigation to once a week, along with steeper cutbacks for golf courses and agriculture.
Audubon argues that more restrictions are needed to stretch water supplies for both public needs and the environment.
"You are impacting future generations with horrific costs," Palm Beach County environmental activist and Audubon member Rosa Durando told district officials April 14.
Instead, district officials this month opted to bank on current restrictions and stepped up public outreach to try to encourage conservation.
The water management district, as in past years, designated April as "Water Conservation Month." The idea is to encourage residents to spend their dry April days fixing leaky faucets, adjusting misfiring sprinklers and planting Florida-native landscaping.
South Florida uses the most water in the state – about 179 gallons per person per day, according to the district.
In addition to the current landscape watering restrictions, the district this month is suggesting additional conservation steps such as:
-Installing aerators in kitchen faucets.
-Watering lawns by hand instead of running sprinklers.
-Installing low-flow shower heads.
-Opting for energy-efficient dish washing machines and other appliances.
More water saving tips can be found at www.savewaterfl.com.
South Florida rainfall totals from October-to-February were the lowest in 80 years.
A surprising March brought more than 3 inches of rain, hitting the average mark for the month thanks largely to a strong storm system that moved across South Florida on March 28.
Yet since November, South Florida has received about 69 percent of its normal rainfall, with the usual replenishing summer rains still more than a month away.
Lake Okeechobee, South Florida’s primary backup water supply, remains more than 2 feet below normal.
"Water levels are expected to continue dropping," said Deborah Drum, district deputy director of restoration sciences.