Florida-Friendly Landscaping Protects Water

In an attempt to keep Florida's landscapes healthy and sustainable, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program (FFL) has begun educating residents on the importance of maintaining eco-friendly, low-maintenance and water-conserving landscapes.

Currently offering programs in 48 of the 67 counties in Florida, FFL -- a partnership between the University of Florida and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) -- teaches Floridians how to design, install and maintain landscapes using minimal amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides while promoting ways to protect water quality for future generations.

"Rains from heavy storms can carry sediments and nutrients into waterways, but a lot of landscape features like rain gardens, swales and berms can slow and filter water to reduce runoff," says Brian Niemann, statewide builder and developer coordinator at FFL. "The conservation and protection of Florida's water and other natural resources is the number one goal at FFL; we can make a real impact if we teach people to be smarter about their outdoor water use."

While a Florida-friendly landscape requires the same maintenance of traditional landscapes, FFL projects allow participating areas to save the money, labor and energy spent on chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.

"As residents, builders and developers become more aware of sustainable landscaping, it will protect Florida's economy -- much of which is based on tourism and its beautiful waters," says Niemann.

Funding for projects come from a Clean Water Act Section 319 Grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) through the FDEP; additional funds are provided by water management districts and Florida homeowners.

FFL is currently implementing two projects in the Tampa Bay region: the Eagles Landing I & II Condominium Association in Clearwater (transforming their current 30-year-old landscape) and Sun Toyota in New Port Richey (undergoing an $8 million renovation, including a 60,000-gallon rainwater harvesting system).

"Additionally, all new construction in Pasco County is Florida-friendly and has been for close to a decade due to the Landscaping and Irrigation Ordinance," says Paco County FFL Agent Chris Dewey.

For more information, visit the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program website.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Brian Niemann and Chris Dewey, Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program

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