I’m sure you might have heard that South Florida has been experiencing a pretty rough dry season. Lake Okeechobee levels are falling to dangerous lows, and there is concern about saltwater intrusion into the Biscayne Aquifer that supplies the Keys with drinking water. (Once that happens, we’re doomed.) The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (“Taste It, Don’t Waste It”) is considering plugging in and starting up Old Bessie, their multi-million dollar reverse osmosis plant that can turn seawater into fresh water.
We all know about the restrictions on watering plants and washing cars we used to have imposed upon us. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD – “We Manage Water So You Don’t Have To”) has been closely monitoring the water shortage and has just released new restrictions and guidelines, effective as of April 1, to help South Florida conserve what’s left of our dwindling drinking water. Long time Keys residents may remember some of these from years ago. Many thought we would never see it get this bad again, but it really has been a dry winter.
Beginning retroactively to April 1, SFWMD is implementing their new Potable Intake Supply Stream protocols in order to prevent unnecessary wasting of potable (pronounced poe-ta-bull, NOT pot-a-bull) water in septic tanks and sewer systems. Part of this program includes decals for every residential toilet in the district featuring Drippy, the cartoon water-drop character, and the slogan, “If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow; If It’s Brown, Flush It Down!” SFWMD calculates that the reduced flushing could save more than 30 percent of the fresh water supply that’s currently being sent into our toilets. Of course, salt water and recycled gray water toilets, as well as composting toilets, are exempt from this new rule. Look for the Drippy decals in your next water bill.
Speaking of toilets, the district is also getting serious about installing low-flow toilets that use 1.5 gallons per flush (GPF) or less. Old style toilets used 4-5 GPF, and many are still flushing to this day all around South Florida. Effective today, SFWMD will begin onsite inspections of residential and commercial bathroom facilities to make sure that low-flow toilets are installed. This new Personal Onsite Toilet Survey will enable SFWMD to locate all the old style water-wasting toilets and begin to inform their owners of the new mandatory Tear Out / Install Low Emission Toilet rule that requires property owners to replace all toilets with low-flow models by April 1 of next year.
SFWMD officials didn’t want to comment on the record about this new rule, but an unnamed high-ranking official said about meeting the ambitious toilet replacement deadline, “It’s a crapshoot.” When asked about how they plan on enforcing the “If It’s Yellow” rule, this official conceded that voluntary compliance would be predominantly relied upon, but that they were training local law enforcement officers under the new Certified Residential Apparatus Police guidelines established by the Legislature on April 1.
I reminded this official that Keys people are already water-conservation savvy, and asked him about all the potable water going to water lawns and landscaping in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, and why the Keys were seemingly the main focus of these new rules. He explained that the Legislature had worked with SFWMD officials to try and overcome the enforcement problem, to no avail. Legislators from the more heavily populated cities were able to pass the Lauderdale And Miami Exempt (LAME) provision as part of the Certified Residential Apparatus Police bill last year.
Once again, we here in the Keys are being asked to do more and sacrifice more than our mainland counterparts. Then again, it’s worthwhile to remember that all our drinking water comes to us via one long pipe from the mainland. That will make it easier for all of us to comply with the new P.I.S.S. protocol, the P.O.T.S. survey, the T.O./I.L.E.T. rule, and the C.R.A.P. cops. Put that in your pipe and taste it! Just don’t flush it until it’s brown… and please don’t give me a week off of my column during April Fool’s ever again.
April Fool’s Day passed John Bartus by … and he just couldn’t stand it. Yes, this whole column is a hoax. No matter your opinion on his pranking skills, John is a singer/songwriter. He performs this Saturday at the 7 Mile Bridge Run and at the Key Colony Inn, Sunday evening with Jade Storm at Holiday Isle Tiki, Mondays at the Castaway Restaurant in Marathon, this Wednesday with Storm Watch at Looe Key Tiki, and Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing. www.johnbartus.com.