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Awards season open for water-thrifty landscapes
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Photo courtesy PINELLAS COUNTY COMMUNICATIONS
Sandy Neither of Clearwater shows off her new garden stepping stone. Neither received the award during a Nov. 19 Pinellas County Commission meeting where she was recognized as the 2013 winner of the Community Water-Wise Award in the single family residential category for Pinellas County.
CLEARWATER – Tampa Bay Water, in partnership with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences County Extension Offices and Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, is now accepting applications for the 2015 Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards.

Residents, businesses and community organizations with landscapes that represent the beauty and resiliency of Florida’s natural environment are encouraged to apply online at tampa­baywa­terwi­se.or­g by June 30.

Applicants are asked to fill out a short form online and upload photos of their landscapes. If their landscape meets basic criteria, a representative of the University of Florida IFAS County Extension will schedule an on-site evaluation of the landscape and irrigation system.

The awards program recognizes those who are committed to conserving water resources and protecting the environment by using the best in attractive, water-efficient landscaping practices.

Winners receive a custom-made, mosaic landscape stepping stone during a ceremony presented by county commissioners, city council members or mayors within their local governments.

Landscapes deemed water-wise use less water, require minimal maintenance and protect the environment.

“It’s important that the community take steps toward efficient water use and protecting our drinking water sources from pollution – the Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards program helps that,” said Dave Bracciano, demand management coordinator for Tampa Bay Water.

Reduced Water Use

Choosing Florida-friendly plants suited to Florida’s natural environment require less water.

“I’ve got mostly native plants as my base and I’ve added what are called Florida-friendly plants, which really aren’t native to Florida but they act just like natives,” said Tom Ungaro 2011 Water Wise Award winner. Native and Florida-friendly plants thrive in this environment and are typically drought tolerant.

Minimal Maintenance

Water-wise landscapes typically have less turf grass and use plants that require less upkeep. Plant the right plants in the right places and, once established, the landscape requires almost no maintenance. “I watched one of my neighbors fight with turf grass, and I didn’t want to do that,” said Beth Eisenfeld, 2008 Water-Wise Award winner. “I wanted more leisure time and didn’t want to be mowing every week.”

Protecting the Environment

Selecting pest resistant plants, fertilizing appropriately and reducing stormwater runoff are all elements of water-wise landscapes that also protect the environment and drinking water sources.

“Everything we have is a pervious surface,” said Rick O’Hara, 2010 Water-Wise Award winner. “We essentially have zero runoff – the shell pathway – water goes right through it.”

Getting your hands on that stepping stone requires balancing Florida-friendly plants and landscape elements with attractive design and minimal maintenance, as well as using water-efficient irrigation techniques that decrease water waste.

“When I moved here the yard was pretty overgrown with weeds and grass, but I knew I could make it look beautiful,” said Susan Rohr, 2012 Water-Wise Award winner.

Past award winners are proud of how they turned once water-thirsty lawns into beautiful, water-thrifty creations their neighbors and communities can enjoy.

Visit Tampa Bay Water’s Community Water-Wise Awards video series, a showcase of past winners’ experiences with the Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards program. The videos include information about their personal landscaping practices and irrigation techniques, and the benefits of Florida-Friendly Landscaping. See what it means to be water-wise.

“Winning was very exciting because it gave me an opportunity to share what I’ve done with people so they can see how you can enjoy the landscape and the environment, but also how you can save water and money,” Ungaro said.

About the Community Water-Wise Awards

The Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards program is designed to recognize attractive, water-conserving landscapes in various water-use sectors, such as homes, businesses, industry and government. The program seeks to identify actual examples of outstanding Florida-friendly, water-wise landscaping and to promote those principles within the community.
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