New homes can meet a higher bar for water efficiency

March 24, 2022

District Water Conservation Coordinator Deirdre Irwin

District Water Conservation Coordinator Deirdre Irwin, inset, has inspected numerous properties and taught courses on water efficiency as part of the Florida Water StarSM program.

Guest column: Deirdre Irwin, Water Conservation Coordinator, Bureau of Water Supply Planning

As Florida’s population approaches 22 million and demand for water increases for all users, the St. Johns River Water Management District continues to partner with local governments, utilities and builders to work together to meet the water needs of an ever-growing population. Florida Water StarSM (FWS) offers a reliable program to help achieve the water efficiency performance needed in new homes and businesses.

Started almost two decades ago by the St. Johns River Water Management District, the program offers an affordable, achievable certification for builders and studies have shown that participation pays off with measured savings that mean builders and developers have a clear pathway to building water-efficient homes in the region.

A study by the University of Florida and Toho Water Authority showed annual residential savings of:

  • Indoor savings: 6,560 gal/year
  • Outdoor savings: 41,741 gal/year
  • Total savings: 48,301 gal/year
  • Monetary: $600

The District developed and owns the program but the Southwest Florida and South Florida water management districts are close partners in promoting and guiding the program’s development. In 2017, FWS partnered with Certified Ratings Program sponsored by the Florida Home Builders Association to administer the certification of FWS homes. This relationship is crucial to gain acceptance with Florida’s building community and has brought the program to a new level utilizing international inspection standards for every home.

It is not just builders who have partnered with the program. Since its launch in 2006, local governments and utilities have relied on the program to implement consistent language in their land development codes or to offer financial incentives to builders to include the certification, thus building more water-efficient homes. Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), for example, offers $300 to the builder for every home certified in FWS. Toho Water Authority has required the certification as a condition of service since 2007 and has since evolved the standard to an even higher bar to meet their needs for efficiency.

The program’s technical advisory committee is comprised of statewide experts in irrigation, landscaping and development and provides guidance for innovation credits, new versions and general input. Recently, FWS partnered with the University of Florida IFAS program to add a certification tier where FWS and Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM criteria are blended to create both water quality and quantity performance standards. The certification program launches this year.

One of the jewels in the FWS crown must be the FWS Accredited Professional (AP) program. In partnership with the Florida Nursery and Landscape Association (FNGLA), the FWS AP program has trained over a thousand professionals from the landscape and irrigation industry so that they are better prepared to design and install water-efficient landscapes.

It all adds up to water savings indoors and outdoors. For more about the program:

  • Visit the program’s newly re-designed website.
  • Reach out to Deirdre Irwin at
  • Read the latest about a new partnership with Earth Advantage Inc. to deliver water conservation certification data through a Green Building Registry.

See our past stories