South Florida water district encouraging residents to cut back on water use

Intense drought leads to lower water levels
Posted at 7:18 PM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-17 21:17:03-04

Lake Clark Shores. It's a place where people are proud of their lawns, including neighbor Kenneth Phillips.

"You take pride in it," he said. "You want to keep it watered and keep it healthy."

But lately, Phillips, like others in the neighborhood, are struggling to keep the brown patches of grass at bay.

"A lot of drought. No rain.It's noticeable," he said.

Since November, the region's rainfall has been nearly 7 inches below average. The rash of brush fires is another reminder of the drought. Canals are dry and Lake Okeechobee levels are at 12 feet, which is two feet below this time last  year. Officials with the South Florida Water Management District don't want to take any chances.

"That, coupled with the fact that people are continuing to use the water the way they normally do is resulting in water levels that are dropping in all of the water bodies in the area," said Peter Kwiatkowski, a water shortage specialist for SFWMD.  "There are some canals within our jurisdiction that are almost dry."

SFWMD recently issued a warning across all 16 counties in the district, which affect more than 8 million people. They are asking everyone to cut back on their water usage, from sprinklers, to showers, car washes and even your sink.

"Make sure you turn your faucet off when you're not using it, just things like that to do your part," said Kwiatkowski.

It's not an outright restriction but just a message, added Kwiatkowski. They hope that everyone can work together to save enough water to last the area for the next couple of months.

Water district officials tell me the average household in palm beach county uses about 164 gallons of water daily. Martin County average out about 106 gallons, St. Lucie County about 98 gallons and Miami-Dade County about 134 gallons.

If the encouragement to cut down on water usage doesn't work, the district will launch mandatory restrictions on lawn care. Right now, everyone in the region is under a year-round restriction of watering to specific days a week, depending on where you live.

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But an even stricter restriction could mean even less days of water and serious enforcement.

"If where you live is two days a week, we may need to go to one day a week. If it's three days, then cut to two days a week. All designed because landscape irrigation is probably fifty percent of the water use that residents typically use," said Kwiatkowski.

Neighbors in Lake Clark Shores are required by code to keep the grass green. Phillips hopes restrictions won't affect them.

"People want to pitch in and do their part, we just hope we're asked nicely to do it," he stressed.

The rainy season begins in late May. Water officials hope the warning will help save enough water to last everyone through the next couple of months. They're also crossing their fingers for any kind of rainfall in the next few weeks.

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