Florida county irrigation code saves millions of gallons of water

For new construction, irrigation design plans must be submitted in Alachua County now. Photo: Mike McCune/FlickrFor new construction, irrigation design plans must be submitted in Alachua County now.
Photo: Mike McCune/Flickr

A little more than year after the Alachua County Commission enacted its Landscape Irrigation Efficiency Design Code and nine million gallons of water have been saved since then.

Started in April 2016 to improve landscape irrigation efficiency and reduce unrestricted water use in new construction developments in unincorporated Alachua County, the code has done more than just improve water savings.

All irrigation professionals installing and maintaining irrigations systems are now required to register with the county Environmental Protection Department (EPD). So far 64 companies have registered and it has also help remove those not qualified to be doing irrigation work in the first place.

“Because of the new code, it has really separated the nonprofessionals from the professionals who really know what they are doing,” Mark Entrekin, a landscape architect who has been in the industry for 30 years and designer with Entropic Landscapes, told The Gainesville Sun.

The code is certainly no cakewalk either, as the irrigation designs have to be presented to the county for approval. According to Stacie Greco, the county’s water conservation coordinator, more than 200 projects have sought approval since the code was executed and 25 percent of the projects failed the initial review.

All irrigation systems being installed in new construction projects in unincorporated Alachua County must follow the process of submitting applications, sketches and paying a fee. The new code has raised the price of having an irrigation system installed.

“At a minimum, our costs have risen 30 to 35 percent since the code was enacted, which we have had to pass on to our customers,” Entrekin told The Gainesville Sun.

However, Greco says the increased cost of irrigation for a $250,000 home is less that .5 percent. The fees for residential projects include $50 for plan reviews, $85 for inspections and $50 for re-inspections, if necessary. Nonresidential projects cost $100 for plan reviews, $170 for inspections and $100 for re-inspections.

The inspections can be done by the county, irrigation companies or third parties and right now 22 irrigation companies are certified to conduct self-inspections.

Companies interested in doing self-inspections must complete the State Voluntary Irrigation License program or take a one-day course to become a Florida Water Star Accredited Professional administered by the county EPD in partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District and Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.

Approximately 80 percent of new construction in unincorporated Alachua County includes irrigation, according to Greco, and irrigation companies often share EPD brochures on proper irrigation practices.

“Water is not an endless resource,” Greco told The Gainesville Sun. “By following what the county has set up, more water can be saved if homeowners and irrigation professionals do what is recommended. The goal is to make property owners more aware of what we are trying to do. We want to help them save water.”

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