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Florida Imposes Water Rules

Florida state law mandated the fertilizer ordinance. It was adopted because the county lies within the watershed area for the St. Johns River, a water body that's impaired by excessive nutrients.
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Under the new rule, irrigation is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Irrigation is allowed two days a week during daylight saving time and once a week the rest of the year. The rule doesn't apply to agriculture, silvi-culture, golf courses and other intensive recreational areas such as playgrounds, football, baseball and soccer fields. Irrigation with certain conservation methods, such as the use of reclaimed water or micro-spray, micro-jet, drip or bubbler systems, is allowed anytime.

Extended irrigation immediately after planting or installation of landscaping, watering in of chemicals, maintenance or repair of irrigation systems, irrigation using a hand-held hose and discharges from water-to-air air-conditioning units are allowed.

Under the rules, fertilizers aren't allowed if heavy rain is likely or if the National Weather Service issues a flood, tropical storm, hurricane watch or warning for St. Johns County.

All commercial fertilizer workers must complete a six-hour training program through the Florida Friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries. And all fertilizer businesses must have at least one trained and certified employee before it can get a local business tax certificate.

Also, fertilizer can't be applied within 10 feet of any water body and it must be formulated and applied in compliance with state rules based on the type of grass. If a deflector shield or drop spreader is used, the distance from a water body may shrink to 3 feet.

But some people think St. Johns River water district needs to do more to protect resources. "It's time for the St. Johns River Water Management District to step up and help conserve water," the St. Johns County Commission was told this week.

The commission was also told that more education is needed to help prevent fertilizer pollution in waterways.

At its Tuesday meeting, the County Commission unanimously approved restrictions on landscape watering and fertilizing to reduce excessive nutrients in the county's water bodies.

Jim Walter of St. Augustine said he's disturbed that the water management district demands that residents cut back on water consumption, telling them that the water supply is an issue in Florida, yet permits anyone who seeks a permit to take water from the St. Johns River.

"The thing that bothers me about this water business is that the water district is promoting it," Walter said. "They are saying we need to reduce [water consumption] and then turning around and passing out permits willy-nilly."

Commissioner Phil Mays, who represents Ponte Vedra Beach, expressed similar feelings before voting for the new landscape irrigation ordinance.

"I have never ever seen a case dealing with the water district where a permit wasn't easy to get," he said.

The irrigation rule is part of water conservation initiatives throughout the state to help protect the existing water supply. Florida's drinking water supply is limited and additional sources are being explored to meet future demand.

"The water district is taxed with furnishing water and making sure we have it in the future," said Chairmen Ron Sanchez.

Walter Kelly of St. Augustine Beach said the county must educate the community to make sure people understand the importance of preventing pollution from fertilizers.

"We have to look at this as a war," he said. "The St. Johns River is at a maximum low and any further pollution from fertilizer is going to make it go downhill very fast."


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December 10, 2019, 6:56 pm PDT

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