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Lakewood Ranch promotes new technology

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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 7, 2013
  • East County
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — Due to heavy rains, Lakewood Ranch homeowners should never have watered their lawns in June — but they had no way of knowing it.

In a move meant to cut water usage and increase convenience, Lakewood Ranch irrigation provider Braden River Utilities and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, in coordination with the University of Florida, have introduced a rebate program to promote the use of soil-moisture sensors in Lakewood Ranch.

Residents, in Lakewood Ranch Community Development Districts 1, 2, 4 and 5, who install approved moisture-sensor systems can receive a rebate of up to $495 for the installation; they also will be approved for twice-a-week watering.

The sensors allow for a home’s irrigation controller to turn off automatically, once adequate moisture levels have been satisfied.

Lakewood Ranch Town Hall will administer the program, because it oversees the enforcement of watering schedules homeowners associations within the districts.

“This is a more accurate and functional way to regulate water use,” Ryan Heise, Lakewood Ranch Town Hall operations director, said of moisture-sensor systems. “Water abuse is a problem in Lakewood Ranch. This is about people who care and want to update their technology for a healthier landscape.”

University of Florida research says soil-moisture sensors can reduce irrigation water use by 50%. One study by the university showed the sensors provide 59% average savings compared to timer-based irrigation systems.

The sensors, University of Florida researchers report, also can contribute to deeper plant root growth, reduce soil runoff and create less-favorable conditions for insects and fungal diseases.

The program was a year in the making and developed at the pushing of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which has been seeking ways to reduce groundwater withdrawals and overall water use.

In phase one of its launch, Lakewood Ranch Town Hall is offering the rebate option to the first 400 homeowners who turn in a completed form to Town Hall.

Applicants must first get a soil-moisture rebate certificate by contacting Town Hall. Homeowners then can purchase the sensors through one of several approved contractors, who also install the technology.
Applicants have four months from the time they pick up the form to having the technology installed by an approved vendor, having the installed equipment checked out and returning the completed form.
Moisture-sensor technologies range in cost from $600 to $1,500.

Residents who choose to install the moisture-sensor technology, but not participate in the rebate program, are not restricted to the four-month time limit. However, they still must receive approvals through Town Hall, so staff can track which residences have variances to allow for twice-weekly watering.

“We’ve tried to make this a seamless process for residents,” Heise said.

Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].


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