Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Florida-Friendly Landscaping in Practice

Last year we collaborated with the UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program (FFL) to produce two videos featuring regional landscape architects describing how FFL principles influence their design work.
Personal Insight
In my tech career I have evaluated irrigation systems at countless South Florida-based Homeowners Associations and large developments. 9 times out of 10, poor landscape and irrigation system design go hand in hand. For instance, why design for turf in areas residents can neither see nor easily access and then water that turf so excessively that the wood fence bordering said area steadily rots in place? Such design oversights are a source of never-ending maintenance and replacement expenses.

Meet the Architects
Daniel Dameron is a Spring Hill-based landscape architect. What’s interesting about Mr. Dameron’s story is how the success of his designs in the common areas of a large development gave residents a firsthand look at FFL and helped dispel fundamental misconceptions about low-maintenance landscaping.

Jeremy Wilhelm is a landscape architect working in Sarasota. Large developments often hire Mr. Wilhelm to reign in their maintenance expenses through FFL-focused redesign. In our interview, Mr. Wilhem offered great tips applicable to both residential and HOA-sized landscapes.

Design Will Save the World
What these videos showcase is two designers using FFL principles to guide their work at both a large and small-scale. More importantly, this content underscores that great landscape design is not only pleasant to look at and be around, but it can also have significant impact on use of resources and maintenance costs.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

UF/IFAS: Leading the State in Water Science

It can take two to three years from the time I decide new scientists are needed to focus on a Florida challenge to the time I can actually make them employees of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

That’s why UF/IFAS got started years ago expanding our expertise in water. It has always been essential to our day-to-day lives, of course. In 2016, there was increased public focus on how critical it is to our future.

·       A survey of Floridians by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education found that more than 4 in 5 Floridians identified water as a highly or extremely important issue. Water ranked even higher than the economy.
·       The Water 2070 report concludes that without major efforts in conservation and compact development, we cannot support the agricultural productivity and population increases projected in the next 50 years.
·       The state legislature made water legislation the first item on its 2016 agenda. Regardless of the merits or faults of the approved law, it marked water as one of the state’s most prominent political issues.
Have you read the Water 2070 report?

And in 2016, UF/IFAS hired numerous water experts to make sure our response to the water challenge is guided by science.

·       We hired five regional specialized water Extension agents, who will work with state agencies to devise and communicate ways to protect the quality and quantity of our supply.
·       Our new state-funded faculty hires include experts such as Jorge Barrera, who will analyze large data sets from water utilities, urban water engineer Eban Bean, and geospatial analysis expert Basil Iannone.

You can meet Drs. Barrera and Bean, and some of the new Extension specialists at the 2017 Urban Landscape Summit on campus in Gainesville on March 16-17.

Let's Talk Summit
It’s the second annual summit, organized by Michael Dukes of the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology.

It brings many of our water experts together from across the state for discussions of irrigation, fertilizer bans, water-saving smartphone apps, consumer perceptions, reducing algal blooms, and more, all underpinned by an ethos of conservation.

You can register for the summit here

The summit is yet another example of how UF/IFAS continues to establish itself as the state’s leader in water science.

The Urban Landscape Summit also includes student lightning presentation sessions
Water is an issue so fraught with politics that good policy has to rely on neutral brokers of information. Public land-grant universities such as UF are positioned to serve in this role because we seek discovery, not profit. Our comprehensive expertise also enables us to assemble scientists from a wide variety of fields to focus on a single problem.

The summit won’t be a water-only affair, but water will flow through much of the agenda. It will also be a debut of sorts for our expanding water brain trust.

Of course, Dr. Dukes and our other established leaders in conservation will participate in the summit as well.

Dr. Saqib Mukhtar judges a student poster at Urban Landscape Summit 2016
I’m proud that Dr. Dukes has invited me to open the summit. It gives me the opportunity to reemphasize the UF/IFAS commitment to conservation. It will also be an opportunity to talk about what Water 2070 recommends – more support for Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ to get us off the unsustainable course of our state’s growing thirst.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Meet James Fletcher – Water RSA in Central District

In December I ran into James Fletcher at the Weather & Climate Decision Tools Conference in Gainesville. Since IrriGator is trying to speak with and learn about all 5 Water Regional Specialized Agents IFAS hired in 2016, Mr. Fletcher agreed to share a little about the Central District where he works:

James Fletcher - Water RSA, Central District
What are you most excited about in this new RSA position with IFAS?
I’m most excited about going back to doing actual programming and working with growers. My previous work was mostly administrative. Now I’m back in the field.

What do you see as the most pressing water issues in the Central District?
I see three things that are issues: The first which I’ve been working on now for four years is the Central Florida Water Initiative, which is about water supply planning – both for urban supply as well as ag supply. I’ve chaired the conservation team for two years and now I’m chairing the ag sub team for that committee to figure out demand use for agriculture.
Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns Counties make up the Tri-County Ag Area (via SJRWMD)
Second thing is the Tri-County Ag Area, which would be Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns Counties – has a lot of agriculture and there’s a lot of transitioning of crops and a lot of issues with water quality, salt intrusion, those kinds of things.

The newest area is the Springs Initiative. We’re trying to get some stuff done in Volusia County. I have a potential project in Marion County looking at sod production on homeowners’ yards – looking at Florida-Friendly Landscapes and seeing if we can’t control water use and also control water quality.

Is it accurate to say that most of your work is ag-focused rather than urban?
My background is strongly related to agriculture. The Central Florida Water Initiative is urban/ag so I’ve had to learn the urban side of it because landscapes use the most water. We’re doing a lot of work with landscape irrigation. Some of the work Drs. Dukes and Migliaccio have done related to looking at turf irrigation is critical for what we do in our area because we’re very urbanized. 

Water RSAs with Dr. Michael Dukes last fall in Gainesville (via Dr. Migliaccio)
Orlando has adopted some ordinances related to smart controllers based on some work Dr. Dukes has done so we’ll continue that work. The work that we’re doing in Marion County is in a place called Top of the World, which is a large urban development. The consumptive use permit on per household basis allows them to use 150 gallons per day. Traditionally most users use 250 – 300 gallons. So we have to figure out how we irrigate that yard with less water. And also with the Springs Initiative and looking at mainly nitrates in the springs we have to look at how we stop nitrogen getting there.

Background from left: Bob Hochmuth, Andrea Albertin, Lisa Krimsky, Mary Lusk, Charles Barrett and James Fletcher (via UFWater)
How would you characterize a successful first year for you as water RSA of the Central District?
The 5 water RSAs are something completely new for UF/IFAS. We’re learning as we go. I think we have developed good relationships among the 5 of us and we’re beginning to work on joint programming. Some of the goals that I would like to see include an In Service Training for Mobile Irrigation for our homeowners – 3 trainings involving all 5 RSAs. We’re creating an irrigation manual that can be used statewide. We’re also getting to know each other’s districts. We’ve done a tour up in the Suwannee County area and then went out to the panhandle. In January we’re going down to the Tampa area and in March we’ll be over in District 5 – South Florida area. Learning what are the critical issues to the state of Florida instead of just my region – if we can all together grasp that it will be a real benefit. So the challenge is developing a program from scratch where there are no guidelines in place on what the positions do. The good news is we were all hired with an area of expertise – marine, septic systems, stormwater, agriculture, urban or policy. Most of the work I do is policy so I hope I can provide that expertise to the other districts.   

Follow the Water RSAs on Twitter
Read about Water RSA Lisa Krimsky - South District