By Harvey L. Poppel.
This Tuesday, the Palm Beach Town Council will consider an important new ordinance to encourage water conservation. Owners who install town-approved advanced irrigation systems on their property will be exempt from day-of-the-week watering restrictions.
The Palm Beach Civic Association endorses this new regulation. We believe residents should water responsibly and conserve water wherever they can. Although our area has seen near-record rainfall recently, we should all recognize that nettlesome irrigation restrictions will undoubtedly return as the drought cycle is still very much in play.
In the Town of Palm Beach, residents and businesses consume a staggering 2.6 billion gallons of water per year—roughly 80% for landscaping—at an annual tab of well over $13 million.
The average Palm Beach single-family residence uses 1,400 gallons per day, over six times the Florida average. Multi-family residences, condos and town-house complexes also create a major demand for our precious natural resource. Palm Beach’s iconic lush landscaping is the primary reason for the extraordinarily high usage.
The new ordinance enables property owners to be exempt from day-of-the-week watering restrictions if they install and register an advanced irrigation system. These high-tech systems can receive and monitor weather data and on-site environmental conditions, calculate moisture levels and automatically create or adjust the irrigation schedule to apply only the amount of water necessary to maintain adequate soil moisture.
Palm Beach owners, such as myself, who have already installed these advanced irrigation system typically have saved 40%-65% in their overall water consumption without any changes or damage to their plant materials. (Indeed, overwatering often weakens plant materials.) Now as an added benefit, owners will also be free of onerous day-of-the-week watering restrictions if this ordinance is enacted.
The cost of an advanced irrigation system ranges from $200 to over $1,200 for a very large property. Once tuned, these systems typically require only a simple annual checkup. For single-family residences, the typical payback period can be as short as six months. Payback for multi-family properties, condos and apartment buildings is equally attractive.
Installed Town-wide, advanced irrigation systems would save residents, businesses and Town agencies nearly a billion gallons of water and several millions of dollars per year, without affecting the beauty of our island.
In Palm Beach, we enjoy the beauty of our lush tropical surroundings. By passing the new ordinance and installing advanced irrigation systems, our Town can proudly lead the way in adopting water conservation measures that yield positive results for all.
Mr. Poppel is a Palm Beach Civic Association Director and Chairman of Palm Beach Civic Association’s Water Resource Committee that helped draft Palm Beach’s proposed new water ordinance.