Naples News: REMEMBER ALL THAT RAIN? OCTOBER BROUGHT UNUSUAL DRY START TO DRY SEASON

Below is a news story from the Nov. 1, 2013, edition of the Naples Daily News. We highlighted some of our favorite sections. If you’re looking for additional ways to conserve water and minimize unnecessary irrigation times, check out www.soilsurfactants.com and contact Geoponics at 1-877-ECO-GROW for a consultation on how to conserve water with your given circumstances. 

NAPLES — Many Southwest Floridians called for the September rain to go away — their wishes came true in October.

The higher than average rainfall during the summer was followed by a particularly dry October throughout Collier and Lee counties.

“We had a very wet, wet season. We went into the dry season with substantial water on the ground. Those water levels can decline rapidly,” said Randy Smith, spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District.

Water conservation efforts look to be more important than ever in Southwest Florida as winter approaches, Smith said.

“We’re having a dry start to the dry season and we’re getting the indication that it will continue to be drier than average,” Smith said.

Rainfall in September averaged about 11 inches in Naples and Fort Myers, significantly more than the approximate 8.5-inch rainfall average. October rainfall in the same areas was less than 1.5 inches — far less than the average.

That’s just 37 percent of the average October rainfall, Smith said.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for a drier than average winter and spring in Southwest Florida.

Fire professionals and turf experts said that forecast isn’t always reliable.

“Those forecasts really vary,” Golden Gate Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Nolan Sapp said.

He doesn’t disregard the possibility of a particularly dry season though.

“The drought index for Collier County is already 400 on a scale of zero to 800. Small brush fires already are starting to occur and that drought index is creeping up,” Sapp said.

The uptick in brush fires is a little early, as it’s usually mid- to late November or even December by the time brush fires become an issue. The peak brush fire season is the spring, he said.

“As we seem to be moving into the dry season rather quickly, the weather is getting better and people are burning yard debris, having barbecues or fire pits. We just recommend they exercise care and that all safeguards are in place,” Sapp said.

He recommends calling the nearest fire department and letting officials there know of any plans to burn lawn and landscape debris.

Sometimes, burning isn’t authorized for residents due to wind conditions combined with low humidity, as was the case the last week of October, Sapp said.

Also, it’s time to be sure not to throw out burning cigarette butts, as they frequently are the cause of roadside fires, he said.

Just as the weather change brings increased fire prevention efforts, it also brings added water management issues, water district and turf experts said.

“It is drying up, finally,” said Jim Phelps, a representative of Geoponics, a Naples-based supplier of landscape and turf products.

The rain had put a damper on sales and productivity for many turf-related companies in September, he said.

“In some spots, it is drying very rapidly now. I have golf course superintendents telling me to pray for rain. Imagine that. The very same course just about four weeks ago was under water,” Phelps said.

The drier than average weather means water conservation efforts are becoming more important, Smith said

“What makes the biggest difference is reducing landscape irrigation,” Smith said.

About 50 percent of the water produced by utility companies is used on landscape irrigation in Southwest Florida, he said, citing University of Florida studies.

Rain is the only way to replenish water supplies. Residential, industrial and agricultural users consume much of the water, Smith said.

“Golf courses in the big scheme of things are small users. Entire neighborhoods, multiplied by cities, make a substantial impact on water usage and conservation efforts,” he said.

Reducing irrigation time, fixing leaks inside and outside the home, shortening showers, washing full loads of laundry and using low-flow faucets are among the top conservation tips offered by Smith.

“I feel very strongly, if we could just hammer in these water conservation efforts, we could make a big difference,” he said.

Other ways to use less water on landscaping is to increase soil quality.

Dozens of golf courses are resodding due to soil holding water for too long in September.

“The use of organic products and/or humates (humic acids) will also help manage moisture as well as supply nutrition in a variety of ways,” Phelps said.

He didn’t discount Weather Service forecasts for a particularly dry season ahead, but said a lot of land managers use a different source.

“Many, many golf guys adhere to the Farmers’ Almanac,” Phelps said.

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, this Southwest Florida winter will be colder than normal, with rainfall below normal in the northern part of the region and above normal on the southern side.

THIS NEWS STORY WAS PUBLISHED IN THE NAPLES DAILY NEWS. The original story source can be found by clicking here.

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