The following is a letter to the editor for the Palm Beach Daily News from Harvey L. Poppel, Civic Association Director and Water Committee Chairman.
July 4, 2010
Palm Beach Daily News
Palm Beach, Florida 33480
The Palm Beach Civic Association strongly supports “smart irrigation” to conserve water in our community. The Association’s Water Committee has thoroughly researched this important new technology and we believe the benefits are beyond any doubt.
· Consider that in the Town of Palm Beach, residents and businesses currently consume a staggering 2.5 billion gallons of water per year—roughly 80% for landscaping—at an annual cost of $11.4 million. The average Palm Beach single-family residence uses nearly 1,400 gallons per day, over six times the Florida average.
· Smart irrigation technology has been indisputably proven to slash water consumption by 25%-60% in a variety of communities throughout the U.S. Indeed, this technology has never failed to meet expectations. And, early results from those in Palm Beach who have installed the technology over the past year (including in my own property) show savings of 40%-60%.
· Landscape professionals report that Palm Beachers overwater; they harm the health of their gardens and lawns by too much irrigation. Perhaps even worse, overwatering leads to runoff of soil and chemicals which pollute our nearby waters. Installed Town-wide, “smart irrigation” systems will save residents, businesses and Town agencies some billion gallons of water and several millions of dollars per year, without affecting the beauty of our island, while enhancing our environment.
· The proposed ordinance is not breaking new ground. It builds on existing Town regulations which mandate the installation of rain gauges to shut off irrigation systems automatically when they sense a certain level of precipitation.
· Although the precise content of future ordinances remains to be developed, the Palm Beach Civic Association has suggested mechanisms whereby the modest cost of encouraging and administering the new irrigation technology will be offset through diverting a small fraction of the massive savings. If this comes to pass, the program will not require any additional taxes.
· West Palm Beach’s water utility estimates Palm Beach’s future capital water needs could range from $100 million to over $220 million if demand grows. Their recently announced plans to upgrade the reliability, quality, and availability of the water they supply to us include an assumption that we will reduce our demand substantially over the next several years. Conservation is not an option or a luxury. Should we fail to satisfy West Palm Beach’s assumptions, a stunningly large financial burden will fall on Town residents.
· The cost of a “smart irrigation” controller ranges from $200 for a small property to $1,400 for a very large single-family residence property. Once tuned, these systems require almost no maintenance. Based on a wealth of empirical data, we are confident that the typical payback will be under 15 months. In my case, the payback was only 6 months.
· For multi-family properties—condo and apartment buildings—the short payback periods are equally impressive.
The Civic Association strongly endorses an ordinance to require “smart irrigation” controllers. We applaud the Palm Beach Town Council for moving ahead with these state-of-the-art systems to conserve our water supply and save us money. We urge everyone to support this important cause.
Harvey L. Poppel
Director and Water Committee Chair
Palm Beach Civic Association