Those who live in Florida know the drill for the hurricane season. Stock up on medications, gas, water and cash. Keep a three-day supply of everything you need handy in case the power goes out. Although water conservation is not part of our normal rainy season routine, some small changes in your routine can offer big impacts to our environment.
Prolonged or heavy rains can saturate the ground and cause stormwater retention ponds, yards and streets to flood. Sanitary sewer systems can also overflow.
Stormwater can penetrate the wastewater sewer system through leaky manhole covers, cracked or broken sewer pipes, and unauthorized connections between stormwater pipes and sewer pipes. When a sewer system is over capacity, it can overflow into the environment. We can all help avoid an overflow by putting less water in the sewer system, especially during heavy rains. The following tips can help conserve water indoors and out:
- Check faucets and pipes for leaks. A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons.
- Use your dishwasher and clothes washer only for full loads. When possible, avoid washing during heavy downpours.
- Use a minimum amount of water for cooking vegetables and stews to maximize nutritional value. Less water also means the watched pot boils more quickly, particularly if a lid is on the pot.
- Minimize use of kitchen sink garbage disposal units. The units require lots of water to operate properly, and also add to the volume of solids in a septic tank, which can lead to maintenance problems. Instead of using a garbage disposal, compost kitchen scraps. Use the nutrient-rich compost to enhance yard or garden soil. Compost is like vitamins for your dirt.
- Don’t water the lawn if it’s raining.
- In flower beds and gardens, add mulch to reduce evaporation. Mulching reduces water needed in a garden by as much as 50 percent. Mulch has the added benefit of preventing weed growth, deterring pests, stabilizing soil temperature and providing nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.
- Harvest rain to water flower beds, herb gardens and potted plants. Rain is free and good for your plants because it doesn’t contain hard minerals.
- As you landscape, choose native plants that are adapted to the area. Native plants need less water.
- Check your hose and sprinkler connections for leaks – a drop wasted each second can add up to a couple of gallons each day.
- On slopes, plant native species that will retain water and reduce runoff.
Water conservation protects an essential resource year-round. During the rainy season, water conservation can also prevent pollution and protect our homes and our environment from nasty overflows.
Learn more about the Statewide Comprehensive Water Conservation Program for Public Water Supply at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s water conservation website: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/waterpolicy/conservation.htm