‘Every person counts’: SWFWMD permit guidelines show islanders are doing it right regarding water consumption

water dropThe Gasparilla Island Water Association announced this week that the island’s water consumption has actually decreased, even with a slight increase in population.

A withdrawal permit, issued by Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) in 2011, included a requirement that islanders reduce daily average water use per person from an average of 176 gallons to 164 gallons per person by December 31, 2014, and to reduce to 150 gallons per person by December 31, 2019.

“We are pleased to announce we not only met, but exceeded our 2014 mandate, with a reduction to 158 gallons per person per day,” said Bonnie Pringle, executive director of the GIWA.

The table below is a summary of GIWA’s connections, population, withdrawals and per capita usage for the past three years.

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“Water usage was up last year, and we feared an increase in per capita usage; however, a higher than expected increase in population reduced per person usage two gallons per day from 2013,” said Pringle. “While an increase of only 57 people may seem miniscule, every person counts in these calculations.”

Pringle said the island’s functional population number is arrived at using a complicated formula utilizing year round resident, seasonal resident, vacation rental homes and motel data. It also allows for commuters including day tourists.

“This is an area we felt estimates were very low in the past,” she said. “We now use data from a survey conducted by Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority. A percentage of the annual average traffic count is included as our commuter population. This has had a significant impact on our population, and lowered our per capita use. Increased bridge traffic counts in 2014 helped increase our population, and as a result lowered our per capita usage even though water use was up.”

Pringle said we have only five years to meet our final reduction to 150 gallons per person per day. This mandate coincides with permit renewal, and she speculated that exceeding the mandate would undoubtedly complicate the permit process.

Pringle said based on this year’s calculations, members only need to reduce their water usage by five percent.

“This could easily be accomplished by very minimal adjustments to irrigation timers,” she explained. “For instance, if your irrigation zones run for 60 minutes, a reduction of five percent is only three minutes. Therefore, set that zone for 57 minutes. Another simple way to reduce your use is to equip automatic sprinklers systems with a rain shutoff device. A rain shutoff device will automatically turn off sprinkler systems during and after rain showers. Florida law requires that all automatic sprinkler systems be equipped with a rain shutoff device.”

Existing rain shutoff devices should be checked to insure they are operating before the onset of the rainy season. This would be a good time to replace batteries, Pringle said.

“We would like to thank our membership for their cooperation in meeting our goals,” she said.