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.   

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Read about Water RSA Lisa Krimsky - South District

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