Here Are Some Tips To Help Conserve Water As Offered At The 7 Rivers Water Festival
by James Coulter
A man dumps a bucket of oil that he emptied from his truck down a storm drain. His wife washes their car using a hose without a nozzle. Their neighbor mows her lawn, scattering cut grass and other debris into the street and down the storm drain.
All of these people are going about their daily lives performing household chores, yet unbeknownst to them, their actions are contributing to the depletion and pollution of their local natural water supply.
These scenes are on display within the Water Wagon, a mobile educational diorama created by the Haines City Utilities Department to help educate the public about the importance of water conservation.
Ed Trail, Transportation Supervisor of Haines City, and his staff take this mobile display to various social events and school outings to help demonstrate ways that people and their actions affect the local water supply and what they can do to help conserve water.
“You are looking at various scenes,” he explained. “This could be a scene anywhere. It could be the street I live on. It could be the street you live on. There are many things going on the street that we often do on a regular basis that we often take for advantage or we don’t really realize is harmful for the environment.”
One way people unknowingly waste and deplete water is through their irrigation system. Some people position their sprinklers so that the water ends up spraying into the street. As such, sprinkler heads should be positioned so that water only sprays onto the lawn, Trail explained.
As for the other examples within the diorama, people should properly dispose of their motor oil and not empty it into the storm drains. They should wash their cars on their lawns so that any dirt and sediment washed off is filtered through the ground, with the soap helping to serve as fertilizer for the grass. And the cut grass and debris from mowed lawns should be collected and emptied into the trash rather than washed away into storm drains.
These helpful tips were promoted through the Water Wagon’s diorama, which was one of many vendors on display at the 7 Rivers Water Festival in Winter Haven on Saturday.
Trail and his staff have been attending the event ever since they first constructed the Water Wagon back in 2013. Since then, they have seen the local event grow, and have attended each and every year to help further its mission of promoting water conservation and preservation.
“It is always a great event,” he said. “Anytime you can get the message out to the residents about water conservation, preservation, taking care of what we have, because water is something they don’t make anymore.”
For the past five years, the 7 Rivers Water Festival has been hosted by Polk County Utilities to help educate the local public about water conservation. This year’s event was hosted at Central Park in Downtown Winter Haven.
Several local organizations set up booths to provide information and hands-on activities to help local residents and visitors about the importance of protecting the environment, especially when it comes to the natural water supply within the county’s many lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers.
Julie Schelb, The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program Coordinator with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), joined her staff to help teach ways that attendees can conserve water at home.
One such way was by creating and using rain barrels to collect rainwater, which could then be used to provide irrigation. Not only does this help conserve fresh water, but also help reduce rainwater runoff in the landscape, Schelb explained.
The best barrel to use is one that is food grade, having previously been used to store food rather than potentially harmful chemicals. Once the barrel has been cleaned and prepared, drill a hole six inches from the bottom to use for the spigot or hose. Make sure the barrel is set level on the ground, using cinderblocks if you need to. Above all, keep the top secure with fine mesh screening to prevent mosquitos from laying their eggs within the water.
Schelb has been with UF/IFAS for the past three years, and she has been attending the water festival since then. She appreciates being able to attend each and every year to help educate the public through such demonstrations.
“This is a great opportunity to teach people about where our water comes from, and [give] options to save and conserve water,” she said. “So we like being a part of this. This is a great day, great weather, great turnout. Lots of people here. So very exciting to see the community out here.”
Jacqueline Hollister, Environmental Specialist with Polk County Utilities, has been helping organize and oversee the festival since it started five years ago. What she appreciates most about this annual event is how it encourages attendees to get hands-on with the demonstrations and vendors, helping them better learn about water conservation through fun activities.
“The idea behind the festival is that everything we do on the land affects the water quality and quantity in the lakes,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize this. So this is not just something you walk through. It is very interactive. You learn a lot.”
Each year has seen the event grow with more vendors and attendees. She hopes that it will continue to grow, and that as it grows, that more and more people learn about how their actions affect their environment and their water supply.
“They need to realize that everything that they do, all the fertilizer and chemicals they put out, and all the trash that they toss out the window and door or happens to fly out of a car has an effect, because we have an effect on the water from the Coast to the Gulf,” she said.