Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Will the American public accept a new level of environmental regulation of their home lives? At the Public Interest Environmental Conference at the University of Florida last week, one of the most interesting talks was given by Dr. Pierce Jones of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who offered compelling scientific evidence that could support a ban on lawn irrigation in a state such as Florida. Like California, Florida has experienced a population boom over the past half-century, a growth in natural uses for water, and a recent drought, all of which have placed nearly impossible demands on the drinking water supply. In both states, water shortages are causing local governments to deny applications for new residential developments. But unlike in California, where agriculture soaks up most of the water, in many Florida counties it is residential use that takes a disproportionate share. For many Florida households, watering the grass (which otherwise would wilt in the intense sun and sandy soils, despite decent rainfall) drains as much water as all indoor uses. Replacing grass with less thirsty plants and landscaping could save colossal amounts of precious water. It all makes sense.
So where are the politicians arguing for compulsory restrictions? As the nation ponders drastic steps such as a carbon tax and huge subsidies for fuel-efficient cars, why doesn’t government put serious pressure on citizens to take simple but effective steps such as using a programmable thermostat or pulling out their lawn irrigation systems? It is because politicians in most places know that the bulk of citizens still aren’t ready for government to tell them how to live their lives at home, even for steps that seem both reasonable and socially responsible?
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