Support local journalism: Find offers for new subscribers here: Special Offers — FLORIDA TODAY.
Want to read our e-Edition? Here are some tips for getting the best experience.
Many areas of Brevard County have reclaimed water available, which is a great way to water the lawn. The cost of reclaimed water is less than potable water, and we need to conserve our potable water.
The difference between city and reclaimed water is important to understand so that reclaimed water is used properly, and fertilization is done correctly.
Reclaimed water is a great water source for the lawn and ornamental plants because it is domestic wastewater that has been treated to remove solids and some impurities, plus it has been disinfected. After the treatment is complete, the water is clean enough to discharge into a nearby stream, wetland or ocean and is often piped back to residential, commercial or industrial users.
Reclaimed water in the landscape is a useful way to recycle it, thereby conserving potable water. Even though reclaimed water cannot be used for drinking, it is being used throughout both the United States and the world to water lawns and crops, to recharge groundwater and in industrial processes.
Reclaimed water is used extensively for watering lawns and landscapes, irrigating golf courses, parks and highway medians, as well as in agriculture for irrigating food crops. Additional uses include filling fountains and ponds, washing cars, flushing toilets and cleaning streets. The use of potable water for all these purposes not only is more expensive but also wasteful. Drinking water is more expensive because of the safety requirements it must meet for consumption.
An important difference between potable drinking water and reclaimed water is that reclaimed water may contain higher levels of salts, the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, and pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Florida has had reclaimed water available for more than 40 years.
More:Culinary herbs can beautify your landscape, enhance your meals | Sally Scalera
More:Sally Scalera: Here’s what to do in your Brevard yard during August
More:Sweet! August means celebrating honey bees; here’s how to them to you Space Coast yard
The Brevard County Natural Resources Management Office determined that all the reclaimed water sources within the county are supplying enough nitrogen and phosphorus to maintain a lawn, so no additional fertilizer applications of those nutrients are needed.
More information can be found on Brevard County’s reclaimed water on this website. soirl-brevardbocc.hub.arcgis.com. Click on the “Save Our Indian River Lagoon Project Plan” link, then click tab 6 to find out more about reclaimed water and to see a map of all the areas within the county that have reclaimed water available.
Also keep this in mind: Do not over-water any zone, because once the nitrogen and phosphorus move down through the soil, past the roots, the nutrients will end up in the groundwater, which will carry them to either the Indian River Lagoon or the St. Johns River.
When watering lawns, apply ½ to ¾ inch of water each time the irrigation runs. During Daylight Savings Time that is twice a week, and through the winter, only once a week at most. To determine how much you are watering now, place tuna fish or cat food cans throughout each zone and measure how much water is in each can after the irrigation is complete.
Reclaimed water is not considered safe to use as the irrigation source for vegetable gardens and possibly fruit shrubs and trees. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection states that reclaimed water should not be directly applied to the surfaces of vegetables or other edible crops that are not peeled or cooked, such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and kale.
Typical irrigation systems that have oscillating or pop-up heads that spray the water over a large area could be a problem for edible plants, especially low-growing vegetables, and possibly fruit-producing shrubs. An easy solution to that problem would be to set up a micro-irrigation system to distribute the water below the plants to just water the soil.
Micro-irrigation can be designed to fit any area, small or large, is easy to set up and modify, and the supplies are sold at local garden centers.
Mature fruit trees that produce their fruit above the reach of oscillating irrigation heads and fruit that is peeled, such as citrus, avocado and mango, will be fine to irrigate with reclaimed water.
Reclaimed water is a great resource for those who have it available to them, but there are some cautions that go along with it. Awareness of those cautions and taking the necessary steps to mitigate any potential problems is easy once you know your options.
For anyone interested in the complete scoop on reclaimed water, search for our bulletin on Reclaimed Water Use in the Landscape: Frequently Asked Questions about Reclaimed Water at edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
Sally Scalera is an urban horticulture agent and master gardener coordinator for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences. Email [email protected]
Support local journalism: Find offers for new subscribers here: Special Offers — USATodayNetwork.