As the response to the spread of COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we work, live, and play, changes in water use patterns are inevitable. However, the challenge of managing water resources responsibly remains. According to recent data from Gainesville Regional Utilities, potable water use has increased by roughly eight million gallons per day. The highest demand has been seen in the early mornings, which is consistent with irrigation use. Also, on March 30, 2020, the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department identified 48 irrigation violations within two hours.
Landscape irrigation is currently limited to a maximum of twice a week in Alachua County. Addresses with odd numbers can irrigate on Wednesday and/or Saturday, and addresses with even numbers can irrigate on Thursday and/or Sunday. Commercial properties can irrigate on Tuesday and/or Friday. Watering is allowed before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to reduce water lost to evaporation. While restrictions currently allow twice a week irrigation, the best practice for water conservation is to turn your system off, and only water if your grass blades are folded in half or your plants are wilting.
Irrigation restrictions apply to the use of private wells, city water, and surface water. The use of a hand-held hose with a spray nozzle, micro-irrigation, and reclaimed water are exempt along with the watering of vegetable gardens and fruit trees.
“It is understandable that with all the extra time spent at home, people are turning to their yards for respite,” said Alachua County Environmental Protection Department Senior Planner Forrest Eddleton. “The virus hasn’t changed the fact that overwatering reduces groundwater supplies, harms our springs, wastes money, and often times ends up damaging the landscape.”