Water Conservation in Town Makes Dollars & Sense


By: Harvey L. Poppel, Civic Association Director & Water Committee Chair

The City of West Palm Beach, which supplies water to Palm Beach is in far better shape to withstand droughts as the result of actions to expand its water capacity. This, according to a recent presentation to Palm Beach’s Town Council by Scott Kelly, West Palm Beach’s assistant city administrator.

But despite this welcomed assurance, water conservation remains important and relevant in many ways.

First, the future cost of our water is a function of capital outlays for new water sources, treatment and distribution which are highly volume sensitive. Less water needed, less new capital required, lower future costs for all.

Second, for any individual property owner, irrigation conservation measures such as advanced irrigation systems (AIS’s). High-efficiency nozzles and functional rain sensors have proven to save 30%-60% of total water use and payback their installation costs within 8-18 months—a very attractive investment.

Third, to avoid going “brown,” many property owners or their landscape maintainers overwater. But overwatering can destroy the integrity of plant and lawn materials—making them more susceptible to mildew, mold, fungi and leading to their premature failure.

Fourth, overwatering can also lead to runoff containing chemicals which can damage hardscapes and pollute our lake and nearby ocean waters.

Finally, despite the recent laudable actions taken by West Palm Beach, it’s not possible to predict the severity of future droughts and what a multi-year drought in particular, such as the one afflicting the Western U.S. might have on the long-term availability and cost of water.

Better to reduce demands now and collectively be in a stronger position to withstand such an event.