To many Floridians, water seems like a never-ending resource.
After all, here in Pinellas County we are virtually surrounded by it, and this past week we’ve been deluged by storm after storm. Yet potable water is one of our most precious resources: of all the water on Earth, only 1% is available for drinking. Think about it: most of the water surrounding our county is salty or brackish. This reality evokes the line we all learned in high school from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”: “Water, water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink.” Fresh water is a precious resource, and one that deserves our best conservation practices.
So you might be surprised to learn that in Pinellas County, over half of residential water use is sprayed and hosed onto lawns and landscaping. Sprinkler systems account for a great deal of wasted water if they leak or are not calibrated efficiently. Think of the number of times you’ve witnessed sprinklers that seem to water the street more than the grass, or are running during rain storms. Plus, water run-off in the street and from driveways ends up in storm drains, carrying with it fertilizer residue, pesticides, pet waste, and other pollutants that in many cases flow directly into and contaminate Tampa Bay.
Sure, we love our lawns and gardens, and we want to keep them lush and green. One nearly-free way to do so is by harvesting rainwater, especially during our rainy season, and using it to water our landscapes.
Pinellas County Extension’s Rain Harvesting Workshop shows how it works. The workshop is free to the public, and for $30 you can purchase a ready-made rain barrel for your home. In case you prefer to make your own, the workshop teaches you how. You’ll also receive a booklet published by the Southwest Florida Water Management District with instructions on building a rain barrel system, including photos of functioning rain barrels in local residents’ yards.
At our house, we’ve put our rain barrel to good use in the few months since we set it up. It is the primary source of water--except for what Mother Nature provides—for our herb and vegetable garden, and keeps our ornamentals happy, too. In fact, I learned at a recent workshop that some gardeners particularly value their harvested rainwater because it is free of the chlorine used to treat the city water supply.
Interested in learning more? Pinellas Extension Service is offering Saturday workshops on July 16 and August 13. To sign up, visit Extension’s website at http://pinellas.ifas.ufl.edu/ and click “Registration” to sign up online for this or any of the other many informative workshops the Extension provides free-of-charge to the public.