Conservation Takes A Back Seat As Polk Cities Jockey For Bigger Water Permits

Officials in Davenport and Haines City have been aggressively annexing land for new residential subdivisions in their former rural outskirts in recent years.

Water line extensions typically accompany the subsequent development that the annexations anticipated and were contingent on.

As a result, officials in those cities have complained about not having enough permitted water capacity to meet projected growth demands. They have tentatively discussed trying to develop their own so-called alternative water supplies by tapping the lower reaches of the Floridan aquifer as the Polk Regional Water Cooperative is planning to do at two planned wellfields at the edge of the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern north of Lakeland and in the Lake Walkinwater area east of Lake Wales.

However during this week’s PRWC meeting, a presentation on potential water conservation strategies to reduce indoor and outdoor (read lawn irrigation) residential water consumption revealed officials in Davenport, Haines City and most of the other cities in Polk County have no one on staff assigned to deal with water conservation even though aggressive conservation measures could reduce the need for developing new water sources and perhaps allow cities to live within their water budgets.

And, even in cities that do have a staff member assigned to water conservation, the practical effect is unclear based on casual observation of some residents’ water consumption patterns that belie conservation efforts.

Some residents in newer homes don’t have rain sensors even though they’re supposed to. That means the lawn sprinklers are sometimes running full blast in the morning after an inch of rain fell the night before.

Many lots are still dominated by a turf monoculture which requires not only more water, but more fertilizers and pesticides to maintain this high-input and outdated landscape.

The water savings are not trivial, either.

The Polk County Extension Office, which is working the PRWC on water conservation issues, estimates residents who follow their recommendations for adjusting their irrigation methods and their landscaping practices could save tens of thousands of gallons of water a year. Multiply that by the number of new homes that typically use more water than older homes because they come with a pre-installed irrigation system. Older homes use less water because many of them do not have irrigation systems.

Hiring water conservation staffers costs money, but the expense seems small compared to the tens of millions of dollars that will go into an alternative water projects that might not be needed if cities didn’t allow so much water to be wasted in the first place.



California Cracking Down On Fake Recycling Logos; Why Aren’t Florida Officials Doing More?

In case you hadn’t heard, most of the recycling logos you see on various kinds of containers and other products are a scam.

This is especially true for plastics, most of which have never really been recyclable because of their chemical complexity.

California is taking this issue head-on by proposing legislation that will ban companies from putting recycling logos on their products unless they can back up that claim that the containers or materials are really recyclable. Unsurprisingly, the plastics/petrochemical industry is pushing back, The New York Times reports.

Plastic waste is an increasingly serious problem in places like Florida with thousands of miles of coastlines, lakeshores and rivers that often are the destination to improperly handled plastic waste. Worse than the litter problem is the fact that this material breaks down into tiny particles that get into the aquatic food chain that eventually ends up in our bodies.

Plastics: It’s What For Dinner doesn’t have an appetizing ring to it, does it?

There has been a lot of lip service about plastic recycling in Florida. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection still lists single-use plastic bottles as among the recyclables in municipal curbside programs even though they’re not. Polk, to its credit, injected some reality into this issue a few years ago by dropping most plastic containers from its approved curbside materials list.

It would be a step forward if FDEP officials could break their ties with the plastics lobby and speak with legislators about an honest recycling program for our state, which means honest recycling labels.

That may help to solve another problem that plagues local government recycling programs, which is the contamination in recycling carts.

Some of the contamination is the result of residents continuing to recycle the way they were told to 20 years ago when the plastics scam had not been exposed.

Some of the contamination is the result of residents simply using their recycling cart to get rid of anything that won’t fit in their garbage cart.

The problem is if there is too much contamination, garbage companies are not going to the expense to sort through the incoming loads to separate the good stuff from the bad stuff, so it all goes to the landfill.

There are solutions local officials, who keep saying they’re going to do something about the problem but so far haven’t delivered, could do to reduce the contamination problem.

First, of course, would be an active education program. That goes way beyond posting a short video on your Facebook page and hoping someone sees it.

However, it shouldn’t stop there because educational efforts often miss a lot of the people they should reach.

Some jurisdictions actually send people out to check on what residents are putting in their recycling carts and leave notices when the carts contain contamination.

Other jurisdictions have simply removed recycling carts from residences that continue to ignore the recycling guidelines.

After all, we don’t accommodate scofflaws in other areas of society. Recycling should be no different.


The Heat Is On; Area Summer Heat Records Pile Up

If you read that this was not the hottest summer on record in our area, you need to read the fine print.

The figures released by the National Weather Service this week should get your attention.

Lakeland had the third hottest August on record and the eighth hottest summer since records were collected in 1915. However, the difference between the current and the record temperature is only about one degree Fahrenheit and the other top records are in the past decade.

The figures at other locations in the area tell a similar story, with the exception of a couple of historical outliers.

Add to that the fact that the temperatures are monitored at locations at the edge of town far from the urban heat islands where most people live may indicate the problem may be even worse than the official figures indicate.

The real indicator may be how much your electric bills, a lot of it related to how much your air conditioners were running to keep you comfortable, increased between last year and this year.

That may a dose of reality to the political rhetoric that says this is all just a hoax.