Tag Archive: Water

Panhandle Outdoors Water School – St. Joseph Bay

Panhandle Outdoors Water School – St. Joseph Bay

Our first POL program will happen this week – August 17 – at the Navarre Beach snorkel reef, and is sold out!  We are glad you all are interested in these programs.


Well!  We have another one for you.  The Natural Resource Extension Agents from UF IFAS Extension will be holding a two-day water school at St. Joseph Bay.  Participants will learn all about the coastal ecosystems surrounding St. Joe Bay in the classroom, snorkeling, and kayaking.  Kayaks and overnight accommodations are available for those interested.  This water school will be September 19-20.  For more information contact Extension Agent Ray Bodrey in Gulf County or Erik Lovestrand in Franklin.  Information and registration can be found at https://stjosephbay-waterschool.eventbrite.com.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/11/panhandle-outdoors-water-school-st-joseph-bay/

The Mobile Irrigation Lab Team: Helping Panhandle Farmers Lower Costs and Conserve Water

The Mobile Irrigation Lab Team: Helping Panhandle Farmers Lower Costs and Conserve Water

The Northwest Florida Mobile Irrigation Lab Team, from left to right: Mark Miles, Rex Patterson, and Robert Patterson

The Northwest Florida Mobile Irrigation Lab

Northwest Florida’s Mobile Irrigation Lab (MIL), run by Mark Miles, Rex Patterson, and Robert Patterson, is working hard to help farmers increase crop yields and lower costs through improved irrigation efficiency. By increasing efficiency, farmers can reduce operating costs and increase yields. The MIL has been providing free irrigation evaluations in row crop systems since 2005, and has completed more than 1,000 evaluations across the panhandle, from Escambia to Jefferson County.

Not only are these irrigation assessments good for a farmer’s bottom line, but they are a highly effective way to help conserve Florida’s water resources. The Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) estimates that the MIL evaluations have resulted in more than 9.25 million gallons of water saved per day across the district, totaling more than 2.5 billion gallons saved to date. The MIL is funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the NWFWMD.

The team places a water collection bucket every 20 meters in a straight line along the path of the center pivot to capture irrigated water. Once the buckets are in place, the pivot is turned on and starts moving across the field.

Why are these evaluations important and how are they done?

The MIL wants to make sure that a farmer’s irrigation system is running at maximum efficiency, and a major part of this is making sure that the center pivot distributes water evenly across the field. If not, some plants receive less water than others, and farmers have to increase the amount of water applied to make sure all plants get enough. In areas that are over-watered, fertilizers can move past the crop’s root zone into the aquifer system. These nutrients are no longer available for plants to use, and they contaminate our water resources. By fixing distribution problems, farmers reduce the amount of water used and operating costs are lowered – less fertilizer is wasted and pumping costs (electricity or fuel costs) are reduced.

When the pivot has moved past the buckets, Rex Patterson measures the content of each one while Robert Patterson records the data. This will let the team know how evenly the pivot system is distributing water in the field.

During an MIL evaluation, the team will go through the entire irrigation system to evaluate how effectively it is running. This includes testing the center pivot’s distribution uniformity (how evenly water is applied to plants in the field), the application rate, pivot speed, water pressure, water flow rate and checking for leaks. The MIL analyzes this information and prepares a confidential report for the farmer. Recommendations to improve efficiency can include replacing sprinklers, fixing leaks and end gun adjustments, among others. Farmers can have an evaluation done every three years.

Mark Miles (left) places the flow meter on the center pivot’s pipe stand and Rex Patterson (right) waits for the system to pressurize before checking the water’s flow rate on the meter’s console.

How do you schedule an irrigation evaluation for your farm?

To schedule an appointment with the Northwest Florida Mobile Irrigation Lab, call: (850) 482-0388; Fax: (850) 463-8618. Their offices are located on 4155 Hollis Drive, Marianna, FL 32448.

If your farm is outside the Panhandle, us the following FDACS website to contact the MIL that serves your area:   MILs in Florida.  There are currently 14 MILs providing services in 62 counties across the state.

Cost-share funds for irrigation management

FDACS, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the water management districts offer cost-share funds for irrigation management, which includes irrigation system enhancements and conversions, end gun control and pump bowl upgrades among others. Contact your local FDACS field staff, NRCS office and water management district for more information on available cost-shares and funding deadlines. This information can be found on the following websites:



Author: Andrea Albertin – albertin@ufl.edu

Dr. Andrea Albertin is the Northwest Regional Specialized Agent in Water Resources.

Andrea Albertin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/11/the-mobile-irrigation-lab-team-helping-panhandle-farmers-lower-costs-and-conserve-water/

Water: Myth or Fact?

Water:  Myth or Fact?

Carry water with you to sip throughout the day

Summer has arrived!  During the summer months, especially along the Gulf Coast, it is hot and humid.  Keeping the body hydrated is important to maintaining good health.

As the temperature rises in the summer and the body loses more water through evaporation and perspiration, it makes good sense to increase your intake of fluids.  Keep in mind that by the time you notice you are thirsty, you have already depleted your water stores dramatically.  A good rule of thumb is to drink a few ounces of water every fifteen to thirty minutes when you are working or playing hard in the heat.

  • Myth or Fact – You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

Myth – On average, the body requires a half gallon of water daily.  That’s the amount required to replace what has been lost through perspiration, evaporation, and body waste.  Milk, juice, and other fluids can be added to your daily total.  Beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks, are not good substitutes for water.  Caffeine actually may cause the body to lose water.  The same is true for alcoholic beverages.  They contribute to water loss, not gain, because alcohol acts as a diuretic.

  • Myth or Fact – All water is the same.

Myth – The following guide will help you navigate the sea of choices available:

  • Distilled Water – is pure water with no added chemicals or minerals.
  • Mineral Water – is available in canned or bottled varieties. Many brands include a mix of minerals to improve the taste.  Natural or artificial flavors, such as lime or lemon, may be added to some.  Some varieties add sugar.  Check the label.
  • Soft Water– commercially softened water often is treated with salt and tends to be high in sodium.
  • Sparkling Water– some sparkling waters contain bubbles naturally; others are created with the addition of carbon dioxide.
  • Well Water – is more commonly known as tap water.


  • Myth or Fact – Increasing daily water and fluid intake is difficult.

Myth – Actually, there are a variety of ways to increase water and other fluid intake.  Purchase a insulated water bottle and refill it throughout the day.  Add flavor to water.  Infused water is becoming a popular food trend.  Infuse with strawberries, lemons, limes, or other flavorful fruits and vegetables.  Choose foods that contain high levels of water content – for example, watermelon, grapes, and kiwi.  Start the day with a glass of water at breakfast.

  • Myth or Fact – Water aids in bodily functions.

Fact – Water contributes about sixty percent of an adult’s body weight.  Staying hydrated may be a major benefit to increasing energy production.  Increased water consumption can aid in weight loss.  Water aids in the body’s temperature regulation, acts as a lubricant, and cushions around joints.  Water serves as a solvent for minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and glucose.   Because water is vital to bodily functions, the body directs many of its activities toward maintaining balance.

  • Myth or Fact – You can drink too much water.

Fact – Over-hydration can result in water intoxication.  Water intoxication occurs when you consume more water than the kidneys can excrete.  Consuming large amounts of water in a short period of time can result in intoxication.  Remember, you should drink at least eight glasses of water a day – it’s a fact.

Reference:   https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/



Author: Dorothy C. Lee – dclee@ufl.edu

Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent in Escambia County

Dorothy C. Lee

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/03/water-myth-or-fact/

Essentials of Water Safety

Essentials of Water Safety

Summer is upon us and that means many of us will be enjoying pools, lakes, rivers, and the ocean. Florida provides many opportunities for outdoor water recreation that we should enjoy responsibly and safely. Are you prepared to handle a water emergency? Do you have water safety rules? Do you know CPR? These are all things to consider. Not everyone is ‘waterproof’ and taking precautions can really prevent a misfortune.

As the warm summer months draw many of us to the water for fun and fellowship, remember, sudden things are sudden and people drown quickly and quietly. Being honest about your swimming abilities is important. If you are not a strong swimmer, chances are you will not be able to help someone in trouble. This is also important if you are supervising others. Take the time to work on your swimming skills with others or take lessons. Knowing basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation, CPR, also can increase the chances of survival for a drowning victim.

There is safety in numbers; enlist another adult to help when supervising swimming children. If you are at a public beach, river, or lake, locate the lifeguard and position yourself close to the stand. If the beach is the locale for the day, look for the flag to alert you to the surf conditions and adhere to the recommendations of the flag and signage. If you are at a venue with no lifeguard on duty, you are now the lifeguard! Locate any emergency devices available to you and be certain you have cell phone reception in case you must call for help. Have those you are supervising demonstrate their swimming abilities. Knowledge of someone’s swimming abilities in advance can allow you to set safer boundaries. For example, if a child cannot swim the width of the pool without stopping and placing their feet on the bottom, you have determined, for their safety, they must remain in the shallow area of the pool where they can stand up. Another great option is to have the children utilize swimming vests. Never allow for rough play in the water. What seems to be harmless quickly can become life- threatening.

No matter the venue, ocean, river, lake, or pool, be steadfast in monitoring the swimmers and prepared to assist if you are needed. The American Red Cross and National Swimming Pool Foundation have an online course to educate pool owners. The American Heart Association provides the option of taking an online CPR course. Being prepared for a potential crisis is the first step to avoiding a crisis. Many wishes for a safe summer of water fun!



Author: Marie Arick – jmarick@ufl.edu

Originally from Starkville, Mississippi, Arick obtained both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Mississippi State University. With her bachelor’s degree in Fitness Management/Exercise Science, Arick spent 18 years in the medical field primarily in Cardiology before obtaining her Master’s degree in Health Promotion. “I witnessed first-hand the impact on one’s health and overall wellness produced by a serious ailment and the need for more educational programs to aid in improving the overall quality of life for people. This is not just isolated to health education and wellness, but also financial literacy and job skill programs as well. I feel addressing issues with a holistic approach can help people maximize their abilities and that small changes over time can provide a very positive and beneficial impact on people’s lives”

Marie Arick

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/03/essentials-of-water-safety/

Tips on How to Manage Water in Your Landscape

Tips on How to Manage Water in Your Landscape



Although we’ve received much-needed rainfall of late, it’s still a struggle to manage moisture levels in our Panhandle landscapes this summer. During wet summer seasons, one recurring issue is that watering plants too much can have as much of an ill effect as not watering enough.

Shallow rooted plants, as well as newly set plants can easily become water stressed. Some people lightly water their plants each day. With this practice, one is only watering an inch or less of the topsoil. Most roots are deeper than this. Instead of a light watering every day, soaking the plant a few times a week works better. A soil that has been soaked will retain moisture for several days. This is a very good practice for young plants. In contrast, some people soak their plants to often. This essential drowns the roots by eliminating vital oxygen in the root zone. This can also cause root rot. Leaves that turn brown at the tips or edges, as well as leaf drop, are displaying signs of overwatering.


The following are tips from the UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscape Program. These tips will help conserve water by providing best management practices for your landscape:


  • Choose the right plant for the right place: Be sure to place plants in your landscape that match existing environmental conditions.
  • Water Thoughtfully: Water early in the morning and water when plants and turfgrass start to wilt. Refrain from watering in the late afternoon or evening. This is when insects and diseases are most active.
  • Perform regular irrigation maintenance: Remember, an irrigation system is only effective if it is maintained regularly. Check for and repair leaks. If using a pop-up heads for turfgrass, point heads away from driveways and sidewalks.
  • Calibrate turfgrass irrigation system: Ideal amount of water to apply to turfgrass is ½”- ¾”. A simple test can be done to calibrate. Place a coffee or tuna cans throughout the landscape. Run the irrigation system for 30 minutes. Average the depth of the water containers. Adjust running time to apply the ½”- ¾” rate.
  • Use micro-irrigation in gardens and individual plants: Drip, or microspray irrigation systems apply water directly to the root system with limited surface evaporation.
  • Make a rain barrel: Rain barrels are an inexpensive way to capture rainwater from your roof. This can translate into a big impact on your water bill as well.
  • Mulch plants: Mulch helps keep moisture in the root zone. Two to three inches in-depth, for a few feet in diameter will work well for trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables.
  • Mow correctly: Mowing your grass at the highest recommended length is key. Be sure to cut no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade each time you mow. Keep mowing blades sharp as dull cuts often cause grass to be prone to disease.
  • Be a weather watcher: Wait at least 24 hours after a rainfall event to water. If rain is in the forecast, wait 48 hours until irrigating. Use a rain gauge or install a rain shut-off device to monitor irrigation scheduling.

For more information on water conservation principles contact your local county extension office.

Supporting information can be found at the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology’s Drought Toolkit: http://clce.ifas.ufl.edu/drought_toolkit/


Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture & Natural Resource, Horticulture, Sea Grant

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/06/29/tips-on-how-to-manage-water-in-your-landscape/

Water conservation crucial under current drought conditions in Florida

Water conservation crucial under current drought conditions in Florida

The Florida Panhandle received much needed rain this week, helping to alleviate dry conditions in many areas of the region. However, drought conditions persist in the rest of Florida. According to the US Drought Monitor drought conditions range from moderate in north central Florida to dire in the south-central portion of the state. Precipitation is at 25- 50% of normal rates in the Orlando region. In response, city and county governments and Water Management Districts in these areas are increasing restrictions on outdoor residential water use. In homes with irrigation systems, 50% of the water consumed is typically used for irrigation.

Indoors, we can all greatly reduce water use by adopting relatively simple conservation practices. In a typical household, flushing toilets consumes the most water (24%), followed by showers (20%), faucets (19%), the clothes washer (17%) and leaks (8%) (Source: 2016 report by the Water Research Foundation).

  • Consider replacing toilets installed before 1994 with new ones. Pre-1994, toilets used between 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush. From 1994 to date, regulations require toilets to use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush and some use as little as 1.28 to 0.8 gallons per flush.
  • Placing an object in your toilet tank (like a filled plastic bottle or a brick or two) reduces the amount of water needed to fill the tank and is an inexpensive alternative to replacing a toilet.
  • Reduce the amount of time you take per shower, and replace showerheads with low-flow models, which deliver 0.5 – 2.0 gallons per minute. Standard shower heads use 2.5 gallons per minute. Low flow models typically range from $ 10 to $ 30.
  • Placing a faucet aerator on the end of a faucet can reduce water used from 2.2 gallons/minute to 1.5 gallons per minute. Costs typically range from as low as $ 5 to $ 15 each.
  • Run the washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full.
  • Check for leaks in plumbing and appliances (and fix them!). You can check for toilet leaks by placing food coloring in the tank and seeing if the dye appears in the toilet bowl.

Conserving water at home has the double benefit of reducing your water bill and your energy bill since the amount of energy used to heat water and run the dishwasher and washer/dryer are reduced.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District provides an excellent, easy-to-use online Water Use Calculator, which you can access by going to https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/conservation/thepowerof10/. You can calculate your approximate current water use, and compare that to how many gallons your household could save by changing specific habits (like reducing shower times), reducing outdoor irrigation times and upgrading fixtures and appliances.

The US Drought Monitor can be accessed at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home.aspx


Author: Andrea Albertin – albertin@ufl.edu

Dr. Andrea Albertin is the Northwest Regional Specialized Agent in Water Resources.

Andrea Albertin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/06/03/water-conservation-crucial-under-current-drought-conditions-in-florida/

Maintain Your Septic System to Save Money and Reduce Water Pollution

Maintain Your Septic System to Save Money and Reduce Water Pollution

One third of homes in Florida rely on septic systems, or onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems (OSTDS), to treat and dispose of household wastewater, which includes wastewater from bathrooms, kitchen sinks and laundry machines. When properly maintained, septic systems can last 25-30 years, and maintenance costs are relatively low.

A conventional residential septic tank and drain field under construction.
Photo: Andrea Albertin

A general rule of thumb is that with proper care, systems need to be pumped every 3-5 years at a cost of about $ 300 to $ 400. Time between pumping does vary though, depending on the size of your household, the size of your septic tank and how much wastewater you produce. If systems aren’t maintained they can fail, and repairs or replacing a tank can cost anywhere between $ 3000 to $ 10,000. It definitely pays off to maintain your septic system!

The most common type of OSTDS is a conventional septic system, which is made up of a septic tank (a watertight container buried in the ground) and a drain field, or leach field. The septic tank’s job is to separate out solids (which settle on the bottom as sludge), from oils and grease, which float to the top and form a scum layer. The liquid wastewater, which is in the middle layer of the tank, flows out through pipes into the drainfield, where it percolates down through the ground.

Although bacteria continually work on breaking down the organic matter in your septic tank, sludge and scum will build up, which is why a system needs to be cleaned out periodically. If not, solids will flow into the drainfield clogging the pipes and sewage can back up into your house. Overloading the system with water also reduces its ability to work properly by not leaving enough time for material to separate out in the tank, and by flooding the system. Sewage can flow to the surface of your lawn and/or back up into your house.

Failed septic systems not only result in soggy lawns and horrible smells, but they contaminate groundwater, private and public supply wells, creeks, rivers and many of our estuaries and coastal areas with excess nutrients, like nitrogen, and harmful pathogens, like E. coli.

It is important to note that even when traditional septic systems are maintained, they are still a source of nitrogen to groundwater; nitrate is not fully removed from the wastewater effluent.

How can you properly care for your septic system?

Here are a some basic tips to keep your system working properly so that you can reduce maintenance costs by avoiding system failure, and so that you can reduce your household’s impact on water pollution in your area.

    1. Don’t flush trash down the toilet. Only flush regular toilet paper. Toilet paper treated with lotion forms a layer of scum. Wet wipes are not flushable, although many brands are labelled as such. They wreak havoc on septic systems! Avoid flushing cigarette butts, paper towels and facial tissues, which can take longer to break down than toilet paper.
    2. Think at the sink. Avoid pouring oil and fat down the kitchen drain. Avoid excessive use of harsh cleaning products and detergents, which can affect the microbes in your septic tank (regular weekly or so cleaning is fine). Prescription drugs and antibiotics should never be flushed down the toilet.
  • Limit your use of the garbage disposal. Disposals add organic matter to your septic system, which results in the need for more frequent pumping. Composting is a great way to dispose of your fruit and vegetable scraps instead.
  • Take care at the surface of yourtank and drainfield. To work well, a septic system should be surrounded by non-compacted soil. Don’t drive vehicles or heavy equipment over the system. Avoid planting trees or shrubs with deep roots that could disrupt the system or plug pipes. It is a good idea to grow grass over the drainfield to stabilize soil and absorb liquid and nutrients.
  • Conserve water. You can reduce the amount of water pumped into your septic tank by reducing the amount you and your family use. Water conservation practices include repairing leaky faucets, toilets and pipes, installing low cost, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, and only running the washing machine and dishwasher when full. In the US, most of the household water used is to flush toilets (about 27%). Placing filled water bottles in the toilet tank is an inexpensive way to reduce the amount of water used per flush.
  • Have your septic system pumped by a certified professional. The general rule of thumb is every 3-5 years, but it will depend on household size, the size of your septic tank and how much wastewater you produce.


By following these guidelines, you can contribute to the health of your family, community and environment, as well as avoid costly repairs and septic system replacements.

You can find excellent information on septic systems a the US EPA website: https://www.epa.gov/septic. The Florida Department of Health website provides permiting information for Florida and a list of certified maintenance entities by county: http://www.floridahealth.gov/Environmental-Health/onsite-sewage/index.html.

The Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) identified septic systems as the major source of nitrate in Wakulla Springs, located in Wakulla County. Excess nitrate is thought to promote algal growth, leading to the degradation of the biological community in the spring.
Photo: Andrea Albertin


Author: albertin – albertin@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/29/maintain-your-septic-system-to-save-money-and-reduce-water-pollution/

Say it Ain’t So: Important Apalachicola River Water Dispute Ruling Goes Against Florida

Say it Ain’t So: Important Apalachicola River Water Dispute Ruling Goes Against Florida

In his 137-page report to the U.S. Supreme Court published on Valentine’s Day, a Special Master appointed to oversee the case has stated, “Because Florida has not met its burden, I recommend that the court deny Florida’s request for relief.” This may not be the final word on the matter but it does sound like the “bottom line” as the highest court in the land will lean heavy on his recommendation when they rule on the case in the days to come. So, will this be the end of the decades-long battle over water rights in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin?  Considering the magnitude of what is at stake when it comes to this “Dixie-Style” water war, I seriously doubt it.

Hard working Apalachicola oystermen are finding times tougher with the “water wars” problem.
Photo: Erik Lovestrand

Florida argued for years that Georgia was illegally using water from its reservoir in Lake Lanier for unauthorized purposes according to the legislation that allowed the dam to be built in the first place. When that argument fell through during prior court rulings, the state sued claiming harm to the once prolific oyster fishery in Apalachicola Bay that has sustained a near total collapse that began in 2012. Florida contended that reduced freshwater flows tied to increased human needs upstream and sustained drought in the southeast had resulted in higher average salinities in the Bay, which added stressors (disease, parasites and predators), causing the crash.

Proponents of Florida’s case were ecstatic when the highest court in the land agreed to hear this case, following denials to do so in the past. Proponents on Georgia’s side of the case claimed that there was no proof that reduced flows had caused the crash and instead blamed poor management of the fishery for Florida’s woes.

Special Master Ralph Lancaster largely agreed with Florida’s assertions on the cause of the fishery disaster but still ruled against Florida’s request for relief saying that the evidence based on low flows during drought periods did not prove how a cap on Georgia’s water use during other times would provide the relief requested. Special Master Lancaster also hinted that Florida had made a grave mistake in not naming the Corps of Engineers as a party in this dispute. He said “Because the Corps is not a party, no decree entered by this court can mandate any change in the Corps’ operations in the basin.”

Georgia officials are breathing a sigh of relief as the economic impact to their state would have been substantial if this had not gone their way. On the other side of Lake Seminole at the State line, Florida’s resource managers still worry about what they can do to improve conditions in a struggling estuary on the Gulf Coast, once known locally as the “Oyster Capital of the World.”


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/02/18/say-it-aint-so-important-apalachicola-river-water-dispute-ruling-goes-against-florida/

Water Wars… Can We Avoid It in the Panhandle?

Water Wars… Can We Avoid It in the Panhandle?

On a recent camping trip out west I was made aware of just how valuable water is. The American west has been battling water issues for a few years now.  Some camp showers had buttons that would provide you water for a couple of minutes, others charged $ .50 for four minutes, some charged $ 1.00 for four minutes.  Not one campsite had water available at the site.  You had to walk, load your container, and return.  This forced you to be a little wiser on how you used it.  You did not want to have to go back and get more very often.

The Bill Young Reservoir in south Florida.   Photo: Southwest Florida Water Management District

The Bill Young Reservoir in south Florida.
Photo: Southwest Florida Water Management District

However, I was troubled by some of the things I saw as I traveled through the southwest. Areas in the desert where farmers were trying to grow row crops, citrus, and pecans – irrigation systems set up everywhere, reservoirs with canals and dikes to feed much needed water to the farmers… and signs in town where you could buy water to drink at $ .25/gallon.  It seemed an inefficient use of this resource.  It would make more sense to grow crops that used less water, maybe… no water.  Recently we have heard a lot about “water wars” and “water rights” in the American southwest.  Farmers seeking more, municipalities trying to grab their piece of the pie, football fields and golf courses, and even camp grounds.  Some locations you cannot wash your car, or your dogs.  It is a real dilemma they are facing.  There were numerous creeks and streams I drove over that were absolutely dry, cattle in open rangeland seeking anywhere to find something to drink.


Could this happen in Northwest Florida?

You would think not. In the book Mirage by Cynthia Barnett, it mentions a comment made by Major John Wesley Powell.  Major Powell was an ex-confederate officer who was hired by the U.S. Geological Survey to survey land across the south and to the southwest after the Civil War.  He mentions problems with developing the American southwest primarily due to the lack of water… but water was something that Florida would never have to worry about – the state was saturated.  And yet here we are… 150 years later discussing water rights in Florida.  Currently it does not appear to be an issue.  At any campground in Florida you will find a water source at each site and you can take a shower as long as you like – at no charge.  We are one of the most productive agricultural states in the country – producing row crops, citrus, and cattle.  Most in our communities have manicured watered lawns and many have swimming pools.  There does not seem to be a problem here.  BUT, many communities are beginning to see problems.  Salt water intrusion into the water supply, lowering of the water table and aquifers, and even some streams running low.  Could we… Florida… the land of water… be heading towards a “water war”?

This is a common method used to irrigate crops across the U.S. Photo: UF IFAS

This is a common method used to irrigate crops across the U.S.
Photo: UF IFAS

The University of Florida Extension Program has recently hired water management specialists in districts across the state. They will be looking at issues that include water quantity and quality to address the needs of each region.  These specialists, along with the county faculty, will be working with local residents to discuss the local issues and help mitigate problems that could be looming on the horizon.  We encourage all residents to consider how to better manage their water.  Think in terms as if you had a set amount each month – budget this to meet your needs – and stick to your budget.  Hopefully with research, education, and insight, we can avoid a true “Water War”.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/31/water-wars-can-we-avoid-it-in-the-panhandle/

Are Your Forages Getting Enough Water?

Are Your Forages Getting Enough Water?

Exposed perennial peanut forage roots at 5 ft soil depth. (C.L. Mackowiak)

Exposed perennial peanut forage roots at 5 ft soil depth. (C.L. Mackowiak)

Cheryl Mackowiak, UF/IFAS NFREC Soils Specialist

Forages, as with all plants, require light, water and nutrients. Even if you cannot control water inputs because you are on non-irrigated land, you may find it useful to know the water status of your soils to help estimate yields. Water deficits can lead to slowed growth and stunted plants. The plants may also show symptoms of nutrient deficiency and become increasingly susceptible to pests and diseases.

Field Capacity (FC) is a term used for a well-watered soil that no longer drains after a day. Basically, the gravitational pull downwards is in equilibrium with the ability of the soil pore space to hold water. Field capacity has a suction pressure of −33 J/kg (−0.33 bar), regardless of soil type. Finer textured (heavier) soils can hold more water at FC than coarser, sandier soils, but the plant water requirement is not affected by soil type. In practical terms, planted soils that hold less water (coarse textured soils) can become water deficient more rapidly than finer textured (heavier) soils.

You may wonder how much water your crop is removing from the soil each week and if there is enough water to support optimal forage growth and yield. Many use rain gauges to track rainfall, but not many of us know how much of that rainfall is being taken up or removed by the crop. Evapotranspiration is the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration to the atmosphere. Transpiration is the process of water movement through a plant and its evaporation as water vapor from pores (stomata) in its leaves. When water inputs, via rainfall or irrigation, are less than plant demand (evapotranspirational losses) the soil will become increasingly dry. If this continues for a long enough period (this might be only a few days in Florida), water deficits may develop and the plant will suffer. The greater the deficit, and the longer the period, the worse the effect will be on the plant. If water increases soil suction pressure to -1,500 J/kg (-15 bar), the plant reaches permanent wilting point (PWP) and it will not recover with re-watering.

In Florida and several other states, there are free access, online, weather station sites. In Florida we have Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN). This site congregates weather data, including rainfall and evapotranspiration (ET), from over 40 sites across the state.The FAWN site provides both rainfall and estimated evapotranspiration on a daily basis. There are also coefficients available that improve the water demand estimates to specific crops at different growth stages, but the ET values from weather stations such as FAWN, are adequate assessments in many cases.

To illustrate how one might use this information, daily ET water loss at Quincy last week was approximately 0.2 inches per day (1.4 inches for the week) but rainfall was only 0.6 inches for the week, so plants were removing more soil moisture than was being replaced through rainfall, which is typical for mid-summer in the southeast.  Florida sandy soils at FC may hold about an acre-inch  (<1 inch for coarse sand to ~1.2 inches for loamy sands) of plant available water per foot depth of soil. This means that your soil can supply about 4 inches of plant available water in the upper 4 ft of soil. A two week period without rainfall at this time of year might remove 2.8 inches of water through ET. If your roots have a maximum root depth of 2 feet (because of continuous grazing without rest), your forages can suffer significant drought stress during a two week dry spell.

A deeper root system can be achieved by grazing only 50% of standing biomass at a time – “take half leave half”, or by allowing ample recovery time after grazing (2-3 weeks) or haying events (4-5 weeks). Root systems that reach 4 feet or deeper are more likely to survive dry spells of a week or two because their roots can reach deeper soil moisture (4 inches of plant available water in the upper 4 ft of soil versus only 2 inches in the upper 2 ft of soil). Managing your forage crop to grow deeper roots is one of the best ways to survive short-term droughts when irrigation is not available. Those who irrigate forages can replace some of the difference when rainfall falls short of ET. In the above example, there was a 0.8 inch water deficit. It might be wise to irrigate, unless additional rainfall is expected in the coming days. When weekly rainfall exceeds weekly ET, irrigation is not usually necessary.

Grazing Guidelines for SE Forages


Author: Cheryl Mackowiak – echo13@ufl.edu


Cheryl Mackowiak

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/29/are-your-forages-getting-enough-water/

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