Saving Water in
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Florida is surrounded by water and is home to the second largest freshwater lake
wholly contained within the United States, Lake Okeechobee. Natural beauty and
warm temperatures attract a large population; Florida is the nation's fourth
most populous state, with the number of residents continuing to rise.
By 2030, Florida's demand for fresh water is estimated
to increase by about 28 percent compared to 2005
levels, and traditional sources of ground water will be
unable to meet this new demand. But Florida water
management districts have developed plans to handle
this new demand and more, Floridians can also help
reduce the burden on community water infrastructure
and treatment costs by using water more efficiently,
because using water more efficiently can be cheaper
than finding new sources of water.
Ground water has traditionally been the primary water
supply source in many areas of the state; making
Florida the largest user of ground water east of the
Mississippi River. For example, in 2005, the Floridian
aquifer system supplied nearly 53 percent of the total
public water supply withdrawals for the state and
served an estimated 8.1 million people. Withdrawing
water from aquifers can be problematic, however,
depending upon how much is removed. Recent
concerns have arisen in the Daytona Beach area
because excessive withdrawals could destroy the
wetlands and lakes in the Tiger Bay State Forest. And
with a population growth rate of more than 26 percent
since 2000, Orlando has significantly increased its
dependence upon the Floridian aquifer and is reaching
the limit of sustainable withdrawals.
Overall population growth in the state has slowed from
previous predictions but is still projected to continue,
which will create new demand on groundwater sources
that are nearing their sustainable limits. The
development of alternative water supplies, as well as
water efficiency efforts, will therefore be essential in
meeting future demands.
Climate change impacts are also expected to
challenge Florida's future water supply. Variations in
either annual rainfall or temperatures could pose risks
to the state's water resources. Extended droughts and
heat waves, for example, could further limit the
amount of water that reaches Florida's aquifers, and
rising sea levels and coastal storms could increase
the threat of saltwater intrusion into freshwater
aquifers. Municipalities are adopting measures such
as watering restrictions designed to help reduce the
impacts of droughts.
The famous Everglades have also been affected by
recent droughts. The water level in Lake Okeechobee,
considered the heart of the Everglades, dropped so
low during the 2011 drought that gravity couldn't pull
A mA EPA-832-F-13-006
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Saving Water in Florida
the water south to the Everglades or through the canal
that provides West Palm Beach with its drinking water.
Given the potential for such extreme water shortages,
using water wisely has become especially important,
With demand for public water supplies in Florida
projected to increase nearly 50 percent by 2030,
Floridians are starting to make changes to help save
water, starting in their own back yards. On average,
Americans use an average of 30 percent of their water
outdoors. Residential water use per person in Florida
has declined since 2000, as a result of water
conservation efforts, water restrictions, the increased
use of reclaimed water, and "Florida-Friendly"
landscaping techniques. Florida-Friendly landscapes
include water-efficient irrigation, low water-using plants,
and reduced stormwater runoff, which can transport
harmful chemicals. By watering lawns and gardens
more efficiently, Florida residents could save 46 million
gallons of water each day—equal to the amount
needed to supply every household in Tampa.
Utilities, cities, and water management districts across
Florida are promoting water efficiency inside the home
as well, providing technical assistance and offering
rebates on products labeled by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's)
WaterSense® program. If just half of Florida's
households replaced their older, inefficient toilets with
WaterSense labeled models, the state could save
nearly 38 billion gallons of water annually—enough to
supply every household in Orlando for four years.
Some builders are taking this approach to heart and
installing WaterSense labeled fixtures throughout
community developments. For example, it is
estimated that homes featuring WaterSense labeled
fixtures in the Brownsville Transit Village in Miami will
save more than 5 million gallons of water per year and
about $50,000 annually in utility savings, compared to
using standard plumbing fixtures.
For more information on WaterSense labeled products
and new homes, or other water-saving tips, visit
New Homes, Less Water Stewart Style
Although population growth can strain water supplies, the new
homes built to house Florida's growing population can be much
more water-efficient than older models, especially if they earn the
WaterSense label. National homebuilder KB Homes, the first
WaterSense Builder Partner of the Year, has built a number of
WaterSense labeled new homes near Orlando, Florida.
To demonstrate how these homes can have beautiful landscapes
that use less water, KB Homes teamed up with design maven
Martha Stewart to design a net-zero energy, water-saving concept
home located just outside of Orlando. The home features
WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures and a beautiful, water-
efficient landscape comprised of regionally appropriate plants. A
rainwater collection system is also included.
(Photo: c. 2010 James F. Wilson/Courtesy Builder Magazine)