Adopting water conservation as a way of life

May 19, 2022

Kraig McLane and Deirdre Irwin collaborate on planning and water conservation

Water conservation is integrated into many work groups’ efforts as part of the District’s work. Kraig McLane and Deirdre Irwin collaborate on planning and water conservation partnership programs with local governments and utilities.

Guest column: Kraig McLane (Senior Project Manager) and Deirdre Irwin (Water Conservation Coordinator), Bureau of Water Supply Planning

So why would you be motivated to use less water? How often do you think about your water use? Did you know that research shows that the biggest influence to change behavior is our peer group?

Water conservation seems like a simple exercise, but there are many facets to getting the job done. Social science plays a role in behavior and as such the St. Johns River Water Management District works to learn as much as possible to encourage conservation, as well as partnering with others to collaborate on this important part of our mission to use water efficiently.

Who’s involved
Many water users help to conserve water, including farmers, homeowners, utility staff, golf courses, industry, power plants, and homeowner associations. Researchers and industry organizations help as well, like the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Center for Land Use Efficiency and the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association. We have also teamed with top notch educators like Kurt Thompson, nationally acclaimed irrigation instructor, to develop training and continuing education for landscape and irrigation professionals and community association managers. This training increases the practical knowledge of designing, installing and maintaining efficient irrigation systems. For our agricultural water uses, the Mobile Irrigation Labs are available to assist growers to become more efficient users of water through conducting surveys of individual farms and offering practical water-saving options.

Building blocks
A well designed and installed landscape can reduce maintenance needs for years. Water efficiency can be very effective when it begins when the home or commercial site is first built. Design codes can help guarantee the highest efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances are used inside the home. Outside the home ― where most water is wasted ― efficient irrigation design codes can help with reducing irrigation needs in the future. Implementing efficiency when the home is first built is so much easier than coming back later to retrofit the home.

While we aren’t writing code for a new conservation “game app,” the water management districts, utilities and local governments work together to evaluate and draft new codes to improve sustainable design expectations. We provide guidance to help them draft codes that save water and work with their utility and customer base, while keeping the new rules achievable and effective.

When implementing effective water conservation programs through local codes, collaboration is key. When starting to look at the best way forward, our conservation team recommends:

  • Evaluate what other local governments and utilities have done
  • Consider a local stakeholder group to develop the vision
  • Commit to enforcing what is implemented
  • Educate both stakeholders and staff
  • Collaborate with the districts, IFAS extension, local governments, and others
  • Pilot test new programs for existing residents
  • Quantify program performance and adjust as needed

District staff are eager to assist on this journey to implement successful codes and conservation programs.

Shining star
Florida Water StarSM (FWS) teamed with the Florida Homebuilders Association in 2017 to promote this award-winning certification program among its membership. The program is available in all five Florida water management districts and is available for residential, commercial and community projects. Recently, FWS revamped its tools and website. Also, the program is now included in a national green building searchable database, the Green Building Registry.

What you can do today
Simple steps to address your water use and help conserve water to help our resources include:

Spread the word. Tell your friends and neighbors to use water efficiently, like when it’s raining turn off your irrigation system.

See our past stories