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Environment

Florida Experts Brainstorm Ways To Meet Population Growth Demands While Protecting Natural Water Supply

Florida's population grows every year. And the state is trying to come up with ways to meet people's needs without ruining natural water resources.

The Nature Conservancy's Florida Chapter estimates roughly 1,000 people were moving to Florida every day before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter's Executive Director Temperince Morgan says that rapid growth is stretching the state's water resources.

"Our current demands are exceeding our current supplies from traditional sources. We're seeing drawdowns and impacts to springs, lakes, and wetlands and other water bodies around the state," Morgan says.

Morgan says demand for freshwater will keep going up, especially in places like Central Florida, where more people are choosing to live.

"In recent years, public water supply demand has, for the first time in Florida history, begun to exceed agricultural demand. And the vast majority of that public water supply demand is for irrigation. So, to irrigate our lawns," Morgan says.

Her group is partnering with the University of Florida and a developer to study a new irrigation-free community—meaning a neighborhood that replaces grassy lawns with plants that are meant to live in Florida's specific climate without the need for frequent watering.

"And that study focuses on both the benefits of irrigation-free landscapes. But we're also studying and trying to understand homeowners' perceptions towards less grass," Morgan says.

During a meeting of the Florida Advisory Council on Climate and Energy, April Combs with the state department of agriculture said another option could be using reclaimed water.

"Reclaimed water projects in the state are expected to produce the largest amount of additional water by 2035," Combs says.

The state's Advisory Council on Climate and Energy is tasked with bringing stakeholders together to discuss ways to conserve resources.

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