IFAS to help residents navigate irrigation issues

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at UF launched a free new webinar series today to help residents keep their lawns healthier while conserving more water.

The weekly webinars are the result of collaboration among UF/IFAS extension agents in Central Florida, and is the first time the group has produced a series focused on irrigation issues.

Yilin Zhuang, a central district water resources regional specialized agent, said frequent questions from the community and common problems the agents see during site visits prompted the development of the series.

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“We noticed some landscaping issues are the result of improper irrigation practices,” Zhuang said in an email interview. “For example, we found some irrigation systems leave ‘dead spots’ in the lawn due to poor design. It results in over-irrigation efforts to keep the entire lawn healthy.”

The webinars, delivered every Thursday at 2 p.m. through August 19, focus on common issues and best practices in residential irrigation. Upcoming topics will include scheduling irrigation, using reclaimed water, maintaining landscapes and turfgrasses, and using microirrigation.

Experts will deliver the webinars live and will open the floor for questions at the end of each session, Zhuang said.

Residents who are unable to participate in the Zoom-based events will be able to access a recording of the webinars after the event. However, they will need to register online for the event in advance in order to access the recordings.

Minimizing water waste will be integrated into the advice provided during the series. An estimated 50 percent of a home’s total water consumption is used for irrigation and often the landscape is over-irrigated, Zhuang said.

“Water conservation has become a major concern for Florida as the water demand increases while the limited available supply per capita decreases,” Zhuang said.

In Florida, the public uses more groundwater than both agriculture and industrial customers, according to an IFAS press release.

“One thing we all can do is water efficiently instead of watering routinely,” Zhuang said. “An efficient irrigation system conserves water and helps ensure that fertilizer and other pollution is not flowing into water bodies.”

A well-designed irrigation system will have many features including a system that shuts off automatically after rain and that is checked regularly for leaks and over spray. Microirrigation should be used in landscape beds, and overall, watering should be based on the needs of the plants, Zhuang said.

Reducing water use also helps residents save money, she said.

“With so much of home water-use taking place in the landscape, Florida-Friendly Landscaping is the solution, and we can all take part,” said Tina McIntyre, a Seminole County extension and Florida-Friendly Landscaping agent.

Interested residents will need to register for each individual webinar they wish to attend. They can register on the UF/IFAS event blog page.

McIntyre, who has a master’ s degree in conservation biology, and Zhuang, who has a doctorate in civil engineering, will be two of the presenters in the webinar series.

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