GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Temperatures approaching record levels and lower than normal precipitation can have broad effects on our area. Many have noticed the ash and smoke from the West Mims fire to the north of our area but we also have to worry about the state of our available surface and groundwater.
According to the United States Drought Monitor maintained by the National Drought Mitigation Center, our entire county is experiencing a moderate drought. Meanwhile, throughout our region, we are seeing some more serious conditions as well as lower than normal surface water levels. In response to these facts, the St. Johns River Water Management District has issued an expanded Water Shortage Warning. In fact, Clay County has been under this warning since March 11.
Now, what does warning actually mean?
Basically, it states that based on current conditions along with predicted trends, water resources could be lower than the demand put on them by the public in the coming months. Currently this warning does not have any additional mandates for water usage by the public but current regulations such as only watering on your assigned two days a week and not irrigating between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. need to be followed. In addition to this, make sure to follow any watering restrictions that may be put into place by your utility companies.
This order also recommends that voluntary water conservation strategies can be taken. Here are some tips to help out our ground and surface water during the drought:
• Irrigate only as needed. Look for your grass to turn grayish and not “bounce back” when you walk on it before watering. Turn off irrigation to established trees and shrubs and consider installing micro-irrigation systems for your landscape beds in place of conventional systems. Hand watering plants is also a good option to target the plants that need it.
• Do all of your irrigation and watering in the early morning.
• Calibrate your irrigation system to make sure the right amount of water is being applied and it is going in the right spots.
• Create a rain barrel or water collection cistern to use rainwater to irrigate your plants. This may not be that effective right now but once we get some rain, it will mean less water use in the landscape.
• Do not fertilize your lawn during drought, it will need more water and can be harmful to the turf.
• Cut back on mowing, when grass is cut it uses more water. You can also mow your grass higher, sharpen your blade, and don’t ever cut more than 1/3 of the blade.
• Put a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around your landscape plants. This will help keep the water where the plants need it and limit water loss.
If we all did a little bit to limit how much water is wasted in the landscape, we can help limit the effects of the drought and try to ensure that nobody’s well runs dry and our lakes and creeks continue to hold water. Also, remember that there is also a burn ban in place.
If you have any questions about the water conservation, Master Gardener program, landscape and garden topics, or need plant or pest materials identified, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu, follow us on Facebook, or call by phone at (904)284-6355. There will also be a class on irrigation entitled “Watering the Right Way” held at the UF/IFAS Clay County Extension Office in Green Cove Springs on June 24 from 9 a.m.-noon. Visit clayextension.eventbrite.com or call the office for more information and to register.