Our area had much lower rainfall than normal during the summer rainy season in 2023. There is currently a 9 inch rainfall deficit which has contributed to Tampa Bay Water’s regional reservoir being unable to be completely refilled. The region varies from “abnormally dry” to “extreme drought.” Pinellas County is in the driest year on record for the past 129 years, with 18” less rainfall than normal.
Why is the focus just on outdoor water? Outdoor water use makes up more than 50% of residential household water use. It is important that we make some changes in our water usage to alleviate the stress on our natural resources. Additional restrictions also apply to businesses such as nurseries, golf courses, and farms.
The entire Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) is under water restrictions from November 21, 2023 through 1 July 2024. Lawn watering is limited to one time per week. Watering should be done before 8 am or after 6 pm. You can continue using low-volume watering methods (micro-irrigation, soaker hoses, and hand watering) as needed.
Southwest Florida Water Management District Boundaries
The general watering schedule from SWFWMD is in the table below. Cities and Counties may have different watering schedules, so make sure to check (links for counties below).
General Watering days for SWMFD. Always check your county and city for more details.
What to Avoid
The water restriction order requires that you avoid “Wasteful and Unnecessary” water use. That includes “allowing water to be dispersed without any practical purpose, using water in a grossly inefficient manner, and using water for a purpose that can be readily accomplished by other means.” Local governments are required to monitor water use to comply with this order.
Some ways you can avoid wasting water include:
- Not leaving hoses running unattended
- Fixing irrigation and plumbing issues promptly
- Avoid over-watering plants when hand watering
- Not using water to wash outdoor surfaces when other methods can be used. For example, sweep your driveway instead of hosing it down.
- Reducing run times on micro-irrigation
- Limit car washing to once per week or less
Long Term Planning
Recently the USDA hardiness zones were updated to reflect the more mild winters in our area. Higher temperatures overall plus a record dry year have led to many landscape plants struggling. Even established plants in the landscape may become stressed in these conditions. Moving forward, we can adapt our landscapes to perform their best in heat and drought while reducing our water use. A great start is in reducing the overall area of lawn by planting drought tolerant plants.
USDA Hardiness zones 2012 vs 2023. Source: WTSP.com
Refer to your local city and county for information about your watering restrictions. There may be additional information regarding watering days, reclaimed water or well water use, and additional restrictions.