Water shortage order takes effect June 13

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The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) Governing Board voted last week to adopt a Phase III Water Shortage Order in response to extreme drought conditions. The order, which requires water use restrictions for all users, will go into effect on June 13, the day after the board’s next meeting.
Under the water shortage order, restrictions, and some exemptions, will apply to residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial users within the district’s boundaries. This includes all of Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Union counties, and portions of Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Jefferson, Levy and Putnam counties.
“Drought conditions have prompted the need to enact water use restrictions to reduce demands for water and stretch our water supplies during the drought,” said District Acting Executive Director Charlie Houder.
The 12 months ending on April 30 had the lowest rainfall total of all May-April periods since 1932, and the 12-month deficit rose to 17.1 inches at the end of April.
Groundwater levels recorded at most monitor wells in the district and some river levels set new record lows for this time of year. As of April 26, Treehouse Spring in Alachua County and Levy Blue Spring in Levy County had no observable flow for the first time in its records. Hornsby Springs in Alachua County was also not flowing, and Poe Springs, Suwannee Springs, Otter Springs and Alapaha Rise experienced the lowest flows on record. In addition, part of the Santa Fe River near High Springs nearly stopped flowing.
Even with recent rainfall from Tropical Depression Beryl, water levels are not expected to significantly improve, said Megan Wetherington, District senior professional engineer.
Many areas in the District received at least 3-4 inches of rainfall, though localized areas received up to 14 inches.
“While this system provided assistance to our water levels, we do not expect any major improvements in most areas in the district,” Wetherington said.
The restrictions mostly target outdoor water use, particularly lawn and landscape irrigation which usually accounts for half of household use.
Following is a list of some of the restrictions that apply:
For established lawns and landscapes, watering is limited to once per week. The schedule is based upon an even/odd address numbering system as follows:
House addresses ending in 0 or 1 may only irrigate on Monday.
Addresses ending in 2 or 3 may only irrigate on Tuesday.
Addresses ending in 4 or 5 may only irrigate on Wednesday.
Addresses ending in 6 or 7 may only irrigate on Thursday.
Addresses ending in 8 or 9 may only irrigate on Friday.
Residences with no address (community common areas, etc.) may only irrigate on Friday.
Restrictions also apply to the time of day watering may take place. Hours for watering when using sprinklers and irrigation systems are 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Hours for watering when using a hand-held hose with nozzle are 4 p.m. to 10 a.m.
Additional watering is allowed for new lawns and landscapes for the first 60 days following planting.  After that time, the rules for established lawns and landscapes take effect.
Treated wastewater irrigation and irrigation for home vegetable gardens are exempt from the restrictions.
Overhead irrigation by high pressure/high volume systems is prohibited between noon and 9 p.m. No off-site application or irrigation water on non-targeted areas is allowed.
There are no restrictions on the use of treated wastewater for irrigation and on low pressure/low volume irrigation systems.
Many of the area’s farmers and producers implement water conservation plans and have retrofitted their irrigation systems to increase efficiency and reduce total water use. Systems that have been certified by an independent irrigation laboratory within the past five years prior to the effective date of a water shortage order to be as efficient as practicable or are compliant with applicable water conservation best management practices are not restricted.
Car washing is limited to once per week on the designated watering day for the location. Fundraising and commercial car washes and the washing of emergency and other first responder vehicles are exempt. Outside pressure cleaning is restricted to only low-volume methods. Outside and inside aesthetic uses of water are prohibited.
Restrictions to lawn irrigation of golf courses also apply. Non-irrigation restrictions apply to commercial, industrial and water utility users.
In addition to the outdoor restrictions, the district asks residents and businesses to conserve water indoors. Residents and businesses can take simple steps, such as fixing leaks and upgrading plumbing fixtures to water conserving models.
For a detailed list of all restrictions on water use, visit the water shortage page on the district’s website at www.mysuwanneeriver.com.