A word from the Water Association … please conserve water

April 12, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

April is Water Conservation Month, and Gasparilla Island is in desperate need of water conservation. Gasparilla Island Water Association, Inc.’s current ten-year water withdrawal permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) includes a condition requiring GIWA to reduce our daily average water use to 150 gallons per person per day by the end of 2019.
The reduction was originally required because our water withdrawals are from the Southern Water Use Caution Area (SWUCA). The SWUCA was designated in 1992 to address declines in aquifer levels due primarily to groundwater withdrawals. The area encompasses approximately 5,100 square miles, including all of DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota counties and parts of Charlotte, Highlands, Hillsborough and Polk counties. Currently, all public suppliers withdrawing from the SWFWMD must achieve the same 150 gallons per person per day.  Since our water source is from Charlotte County, SWFWMD regulates withdrawals for the entire service area including Lee County.
As you can see in the table above, we have a lot of work to do this year to meet our requirement, and we have been put on notice by SWFWMD that if we do not achieve 150 gallons per person per day, we may be considered for enforcement action.
The functional population is a formula that takes into consideration year-round residents, seasonal residents, rental units and workers who cross the bridge each day and spend a third of their day on the Island. You may wonder why our population only increased by one person even though new homes have been added. This is a direct result of a reduced traffic count coming across the bridge in 2018 that is at least partly due to red tide last year.
To prevent enforcement action, we must make every effort to reduce our water usage to achieve the 150 gallons per person per day required by our permit. This would require a reduction of approximately 10 percent in water usage.
How can you help? Last year approximately 65 percent of water supplied to the island was used for outside purposes. To meet our mandatory reduction, the conservation measure that will have the most impact is a reduction in outside irrigation. If your irrigation zones currently run 45 minutes, a 10 percent reduction only reduces the run time by 4 ½ minutes.
The following are additional tips on how to save water when irrigating your yard:

  • Florida law requires that all automatic sprinkler systems installed after May 1, 1991 be equipped with a rain shutoff device. A rain shutoff device will automatically turn off sprinkler systems during and after rain showers. They allow the irrigation system to return to its normal watering schedule once the sensor dries out. Southwest Florida receives an average annual rainfall of approximately 52 ½” inches.The majority of rainfall occurs from June to September, but water usage on the island indicates that many irrigation systems are still running. We especially want to bring to your attention that improper irrigation practices, including overwatering, can damage your landscaping. Aside from being a requirement, a rain sensor is a smart and easy way to conserve water and save money.
  • Rain sensors, because they are subject to failure, should be checked at a minimum twice per year, to insure they are working and installed correctly in a location that will measure rain;
  • Sprinkler heads can be easily misaligned or broken, which can lead to improper and wasteful water application. Have your irrigation system inspected regularly;
  • Follow the twice-per-week watering restrictions set for your county as detailed below:

Lee County

  • Even-numbered addresses water on Thursday and/or Sunday before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.
  • Odd-numbered addresses water on Wednesday and/or Saturday before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.

Charlotte County

  • Even-numbered addresses water on Thursday and/or Sunday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
  • Odd-numbered addresses water on Wednesday and/or Saturday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

If you would like more information on watering restrictions, please visit MYGIWA.COM or WATTERMATTERS.ORG for more tips on how to conserve water both inside and outside your home or to learn more about the SWUCA.
GIWA wants to thank its members for their cooperation in lowering our water usage as required by our permit.