Reduction in water usage required by GIWA

April 27, 2018
By Marcy Shortuse

■ SUBMITTED BY GIWA DIRECTOR BONNIE PRINGLE – 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 usage to 150 gallons per person per day by the end of 2019. When the permit was issued, GIWA’s per capita use was 176 gallons per day.
The reduction is 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.
As you can see in the above table, we have lowered our per capita, but we have a lot of work to do in the next year-and-a-half to meet our requirement.
Our daily water withdrawals have leveled out at just over 1.1 million gallons per day.
The functional population is a formula that takes into consideration year-round residents, seasonal residents, rental units and workers that cross the bridge each day and spend a third of their day on the island. You may wonder why our population dropped slightly last year even though new homes have been added. This is a direct result of Hurricane Irma. Tolls were not collected for several days after the hurricane, resulting in no traffic counts for those days. This lowered the total number of vehicles crossing the bridge in 2017 which are the data we use to calculate our daily average commuters.
Our water withdrawal permit expires December 8, 2021. If we do not achieve the 150 gallons per person per day required by our permit, it will complicate our permit renewal.
How can you help? Last year approximately 62 percent of water supplied to the island was used for outside purposes. To meet our mandatory reduction, our membership needs to reduce the amount of water used for outside irrigation.
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.
The following are tips on how to save water when irrigating your yard:

  • Rain sensors should be checked at a minimum twice per year, as they are subject to failure, 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.
Bonnie Pringle is the executive director of the Gasparilla Island Water Association.