Monday, October 8, 2012

Water they really saving? Quantifying Florida-friendly landscape water-use!

This September I spent eight days traveling across the sleepy little bergs and bustling urban centers that constitute the South West Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) proper on a quest to identify and document 1600 sites for a study on the efficacy of sustainability-minded programs like Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN). This study is part of a larger project about residential irrigation practices slated to begin early next year.

The question

As part of Extension efforts throughout Florida, FYN promotes sustainable practices via its Florida Friendly Landscape (FFL) certification process.
Certifiably FL-friendly!
FFL status is awarded to residential (and commercial) properties that demonstrate adherence to a series of nine principles promoting conservation and sustainability. But what happens once a property is certified Florida-friendly?
Bullet-proof plant choices
Is an FFL site truly a model of sustainable resource use (specifically outdoor water-use) when compared to other non-certified sites in its vicinity?
Let’s ride!
My mission: track down 160 FFL sites scattered throughout SWFWMD. Since sites on the certified list dated back to the early 2000s, the first step was to confirm, at least visually, if the location was still adhering to some basic FFL principles (plant choice, etc.).
In this corner: attractive & sustainable!
Once this was established, I set about identifying ten neighboring sites of similar dimensions but demonstrating an emphasis on turf quality and not on maintaining a varied array of native plants.
And in this corner: turf for days!
All sites were geographically and visually documented. Presumably, outdoor water-use records for a site valuing handsome turf should differ significantly from a location showcasing low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plant life.   
All smiles for miles and miles
Country living: peahens at dawn
My travels took me on adventures throughout far-flung, tony, rural, hard-scrabble, well-to-do, and seaside neighborhoods in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Lutz...
Dade City let's go!
...Gulfport, Brandon, Seffner, Riverview, Lithia, Valrico, New Port Richey, Hudson, Land O' Lakes, Dade City, Zephyrhills, Clearwater, Largo, Seminole...
Home of the Tampa Bay Rays!
...Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, St. Petersburg Beach, Kenneth City, and Indian Rocks Beach.
I-275 North: Goodbye, St. Petersburg!
Next stop: Orlando!
Results for this study by PhD candidate Kizzy Boyer will be presented in early November at the Irrigation Association Show and Education Conference in Orlando, FL. See you there!


  1. I saw an article in the IFAS items of interest email that said one home owner was getting sued over her friendly landscape. Very interesting development! Great job Mike - look forward to the presentation by Kizzy.

  2. Thanks for sharing that info, Kati! Fascinating case. I can attest from my UCU work that HOAs can be some wild locales.

  3. Apparently there's more than one instance of an HOA dropping the hammer on an FFL. I'm actually in Windermere all the time. Turf City, USA!