The Southwest Florida Water Management District would have more credibility beating the drum for water conservation if one its board members wasn't such a water hog.
Plant City real estate broker Jennifer Closshey used nearly six times as much water last year as the average homeowner, records show. Her use of more than a half-million gallons came as the water management district was moving toward imposing the toughest watering restrictions in history.
Closshey's explanation is as troubling as the amount of water she wasted. In an interview with St. Petersburg Times staff writer Drew Harwell, she blamed her consumption on a broken water pipe, a large yard and changes in landscaping to her guest home next door. "When you have a big yard in an area," she said, "there's only so much you can do."
Actually, homeowners can do quite a lot, from replacing turf with drought-tolerant plants to designing yards and irrigation that are more Florida-friendly. It starts with realizing that water is too valuable to waste. Swiftmud and local governments in its 16-county area have tips on their Web sites on how homeowners can wean themselves off water-heavy landscaping.
Closshey, to her credit, said she supports a water surcharge for big users such as herself. But then she sends the wrong signal by pointing out that irrigation on her property will soon be using well water. Using well water, which is not metered, does not address the issue. The problem is not how much Closshey pays but how much water she uses. No wonder area governments are having a hard time balancing conservation measures with the public clamor for watering. The Tampa City Council beat back an effort Thursday by members John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena to loosen restrictions. If the people in charge cannot get their priorities straight or set the right example, how can they expect residents to sacrifice, much less change their attitude about water?