The Tampa Bay Water board voted unanimously Monday to fund the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) program for another year. The previously jointly funded program was left with a shortfall when the Southwest Florida Water Management District approved a budget last month that cut their part of the program in order to make room for other water saving programs. Tampa Bay Water will continue to provide $223,000, plus the additional $161,000 previously provided by the District.
“I, for one, am very happy to approve this wonderful program,” said Susan Latvala, Pinellas County Commissioner and Chair of the Tampa Bay Water board.
For more than a decade Tampa Bay Water has funded the regional public education portion of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program. This money pays for workshops on Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles, micro-irrigation and rain barrel construction. It also funds the Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards, which is wrapping up its 15th consecutive year of recognizing residents and businesses who have landscapes that incorporate Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles with attractive design.
The new funding focuses on helping water users like home owners, homeowner associations, businesses, schools and other large landscaped areas improve their water use efficiency, and is the first step toward developing a Florida-friendly yard.
On the front line of educating the Tampa Bay community on water use efficiency principals are three FFL coordinators from each of Tampa Bay Water’s member counties. These employees perform on-site visits and practice one-one-one communication, in an effort to minimize the use of potable water for irrigation.
FFL complements local government programs to foster a sense of environmental stewardship among citizens by increasing awareness and understanding of Florida’s natural systems and resources, and how they relate to our ecology, economy and quality of life. The main emphasis is helping the community design, install and retrofit existing landscapes to create Florida-Friendly landscapes.
“When you realize that half of the residential water we use is used to water our yards, the biggest long term impact that we can have on water supply needs is to move towards yards that grow here in our environment,” said Council Member Karl Nurse, City of St. Petersburg.
Keeping the program intact and under one umbrella provides a consistent level of service for the Tampa Bay community and is consistent with Tampa Bay Water’s historic role of providing conservation coordination services to its members.
“This is a modest amount of money that can save us millions of dollars down the road,” added Nurse.
Florida-Friendly Landscaping extension agents teach businesses and residents how to improve water efficiency and reduce runoff. Last year, Pinellas County’s FFL extension agent participated in EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival.
Hillsborough County's extension agent teaches residents Florida-friendly techniques for vegetable gardening.