Back to Nature (Published on - June 7, 2007)
Every drop makes a difference
Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
A Southern Black Racer visits the planter for a cool drink on a hot day.
Have you noticed how it seems people are more on edge lately? Tempers are a little shorter than usual and tolerance levels seem to be lower. Although the spring weather in Florida has been relatively mild with low humidity, the rainless weeks have taken a toll.

Smoke from forest fires fills the atmosphere like gray fog. Our lakes are either dried up or at all time low levels. Many rivers and creeks have run dry or are too low to canoe. The grasses are burned dry. There’s a tension in the air.

Our bird baths have increased in activity by birds in search of clean, fresh water sources. This past week in our garden we’ve noticed a most unusual sight. A southern black racer has been fearlessly slithering out in broad daylight to sip a drink from the planters. Things just aren’t the same.

In a press release on April 16, from the Department of Environmental Protection a task force was announced: Gov. Charlie Crist and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson today joined Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael W. Sole, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander Col. Paul Grosskruger to discuss the current drought conditions and water conservation measures in Florida.

The waters of the nation’s second-largest freshwater lake, Lake Okeechobee and tributaries have fallen to record breaking lows. The 2007 State of Florida Drought Action Plan declares: “Lake Okeechobee, the source of water for the Florida Everglades and the primary back-up water supply for most agricultural users and residents of the SFWMD, is currently at 10.08 feet, the lowest elevation ever recorded in the month of April and more than 4 feet below its historical average for this time of year. At this low level, water from the lake cannot be used to replenish the regional supply.”

SFWMD advocates conservation and has issued restrictions to limit both residential and agricultural use to address the water shortage. Crist urges Florida residents to conserve water. “Every drop of water makes a difference, and water conservation needs to be part of everyone’s daily routine.” And yet Floridians continue to ignore the recommendations, warnings and signs all around them. It is as if they have blinders on.

So what can you do to conserve this precious natural resource: water? The Action Plan recommends 50 Ways to Be Water Smart including: Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. Use a broom or blower instead of a hose to clean leaves and other debris from your driveway or sidewalk. Do not waste water waiting for it to get hot. Capture it for other uses such as plant watering or heat it on the stove or in a microwave. Read all the recommendations at:

Check it out. Be part of the smarter solution. Help change the world one drop at a time ... back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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