The increase of commercial and residential development in the state of Florida may be a positive for the economic growth, but it has proven to be a negative on the sustainability of Florida’s most precious natural resource, fresh water. The concern over the quality and quantity of our drinking water is widespread throughout the state and has become a challenge for local municipalities as well as state agencies. Recent studies have shown that Florida’s demand for water is expected to increase from approximately 1.4 billion gallons a day to 7.9 billion gallons by the year 2030. This means that protecting our current water supply and establishing new methods of decreasing our usage is critical. Communities can help with both of these efforts by looking towards conservation. One such way to make a difference is to help your community become Florida Friendly.
Florida Friendly Communities have in place practices to help preserve Florida’s natural resources and protect the environment. The community should support the residents and encourage them to plant Florida Friendly yards by providing information on how to be Florida Friendly and incorporating Florida Friendly into HOA covenants. For a community to be considered Florida-Friendly the yards and common spaces must minimize the use of potable water for irrigation and avoid the use and runoff of excess fertilizers and pesticides. There are many websites such as http://www.floridayards.org/ that will provide information and details as to how you can create and get recognized for having a Florida Friendly yard.
Another program that provides a pathway to conservation for communities is the Florida Water Star Program. Developed by the St. Johns River Water Management District in 2006, the Florida Water Star program is a water conservation certification process put in place for new and existing residential and commercial developments. Unlike the Florida Friendly program which solely focuses on the landscape, the Water Star program focuses on three areas: indoor fixtures and appliances, landscape design, and irrigation. The community must pass inspection by an independent certifier in all areas and certification is not awarded unless all criteria in the Technical Manual are achieved. For more information on Florida Water Star, please visit floridawaterstar.com
One community that is setting the bar for conservation is Staghorn Villas, a newly built Habitat for Humanity community of 58 townhomes located in Orlando that is Florida Friendly, Florida Water Star Certified, and Energy Star. This community is only one of five Water Star Certified Communities, making it a showcase for green and energy-efficient communities throughout greater Orlando. Set on 3.9 acres, Staghorn was designed with green in mind, with a focus on energy conservation from its design origins. Some of the features of the Staghorn Villas community are drought-resistant plants and Bahia sod, a Fertigator fertilizing system (made with fish protein and injected into the drip irrigation water system), and an efficient micro irrigation system used during droughts. All plants are Florida-friendly and well adapted to the region. Inside the townhomes the water is conserved via WaterSense faucets, toilets, and showers and Energy Star washers and dishwashers.
From a management company perspective, it is important to view water conservation as a means of not only saving our water supply, but also helping the community conserve funds. Educating the members of the community on the benefits of conservation is the first step. Once you have community support, a plan can be established and all of the members of the community should be educated on how they can do their part with water conservation and Florida Friendly Landscaping. A committee can then be selected to create a guide book that will become the overall blueprint of the community’s conservation plan. Once the plan is in place, all the stakeholders in the community (management company, Board Members, vendors, residents) should work together to put the plan in in motion.
Conservation is an ongoing and ever changing process (most notably in the case of landscaping), therefore the management company and Board must be committed to working with service providers who understand and support water conservation and are committed to continuing with the groundwork that has been put in place. “At Staghorn Villas, we are working together with the Board to come up with ways to encourage and include the resident to support ongoing conservation and environmental efforts.” Amanda Brown, Leland Management CAM.
Below are some tips out of our Going Green guide book that help support conservation efforts:
- Perform soil tests annually to keep track of the soils character, thus helping you make better planting choices as well assist in chemical applications.
- When replacement planting opt for native plants as well as plants which will be best suited to your soil and planting area.
- Provide residents with educational material on conservation as well as local rebates and incentive information.
- Utilize your local government as many classes are given for conservation, as well as county/city representatives who will speak at your events/meetings.
- Instead of chemically treating ponds monthly, speak to your pond maintenance company about more natural methods such as installing native plants, carp and aerators which will help alleviate some of the chemical use and save money in the long run.
- Replace community light bulbs with energy efficient ones.
- Use light sensors or timers in bathrooms, clubhouses, outdoor floodlights and pool lights when possible.
- Start a community recycling program, community compost and/or community garden.
- Install Soil Moisture sensors or other innovative irrigation technology to help conserve water in common areas.
- Make sure all windows, doors and trim have been caulked and sealed annually on all community buildings.
- Tint windows in community building to save on energy costs.
- Start a community clean-up day once a year and give incentives for people to attend (drinks, snacks, t-shirt, recognition, etc.).
- Make use of rainwater by directing downspouts and gutters to drain into the lawn or plant beds.
- Consider conserving paper use by emailing your newsletter and asking for monthly financials electronically.
- Check outside doors to be sure weather stripping has been installed; this keeps cool air in and hot air out.
- Use pervious materials for driveways, sidewalks and recreation areas.
- Consider installing informational kiosks throughout the community to educate residents on different plant and animal species.