Water and Florida
Florida's water future: Where is it going? Where will it come from?
Reconciling Supply and Demand
89% Share of water consumed by residential, commercial and industrial
“We need to not forget the environment needs water, too.”
— Jennifer Jurado, chief resilience officer, Broward County
“Groundwater withdrawals are impacting water resources and related natural systems in some regions. Other sources — reclaimed water or brackish groundwater — will have to be considered, but water from those sources is typically more expensive to treat and deliver.”
— State Office of Economic and Demographic Research
The Demand Side
Growth and Trend
2015: 6.4 billion gallons per day | 2035: 7.5 billion gallons per day (projected)
|2015 (% of total demand)||2035 (projected)|
|Public supply (provided by utilities)||39.1%||41.1%|
|Agriculture self-supplied (farmers’ wells)||39.8||36.0|
|Others (homeowner wells, recreational landscape, commercial self-supplied, power generation)||21.1||23.9|
» The state’s water management districts expect demand for water to increase 17%, reaching 7.51 billion gallons daily by 2035. Four areas account for most of the growth: The Miami-Palm Beach corridor; the Tampa Bay area; the Orlando area; and Jacksonville.
» The two biggest drivers for increasing demand are population growth and agriculture.
» The two biggest wild cards in estimating increased demand are drought and increased use of water conservation strategies.
Source: State Office of Economic and Demographic Research
Floridians Are Using Less Water
Florida’s gross per capita water use — all the water consumed in the state, by all users, including businesses, divided by the number of residents — has fallen by 24% since 1985 to 134 gallons per capita per day. Nationally, water use has fallen to the lowest levels in 45 years. The state Department of Environmental Protection attributes Florida’s falling per capita consumption to overall conservation, including changes in building codes, year-round landscape watering restrictions, Florida-friendly landscaping and reclaimed water use.
Enough with the Grass
There are two ways to look at landscape irrigation in Florida.
The first is to tally up all the places that are permitted to draw water to irrigate golf courses, parks, homeowner association common areas and wells used for irrigating. Such “recreational/landscape” users consumed more than half a billion gallons of water a day in Florida in 2015 — about 8% of Florida’s water use. They are projected to want another 145 million gallons a day by 2035, an increase of 27%.
But that tally typically doesn’t include watering lawns. Much of that use gets drowned in the total for the “public supply” — the water that local utilities draw and treat for our drinking water, cooking, showers, toilet flushing and, yes, yard watering. The state doesn’t set out how much of Florida’s public supply goes to wetting yards, but some researchers say half the public supply ends up in the grass. That is 1.25 billion gallons per day, projected to grow to 1.55 billion gallons per day by 2035. In short, if Florida got out of the business of using drinking water for yards and water in general for parks and golf courses, the state wouldn’t have to add any water projects to meet demand through 2035.
“Every drop we’re putting onto lawns that is not reclaimed water is water that’s coming from an aquifer, from a surface-water source,” says Jason Evans, Stetson University associate professor of environmental science and studies and faculty director of its Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience. “It’s basically coming from an ecosystem. We’re not getting food out of it. It’s not anything that gives back to society except I guess aesthetic.”
Advocates want more homeowners and developers to choose vegetation suited to Florida’s climate that won’t require as much watering and to lay out new developments to minimize water use and to use reclaimed water.