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Palm Coast Mayor Netts Urges Residents To Join Water-Conservation Challenge

| April 3, 2015

Mayor Jon Netts is never far from water. But he doesn't take water for granted, either. (© FlaglerLive)

Mayor Jon Netts is never far from water. But he doesn’t take water for granted, either. (© FlaglerLive)

Quick link: take the challenge here.

Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts is never far from water. He lives almost on water: his F-Section home’s backyard laps at a canal. For 15 years he’s worked for a tug boat towing service in addition to his duties on the council, and still does. He serves on the Florida Inland Navigation District, one of the lesser known local taxing authorities. Summers, he grew up at lakeside in Maine, learning to swim at age 4. The furthest he gets from water, it seems is when he sits through the weekly meetings of the Palm Coast City Council, a nearby carafe of water notwithstanding.

“Water,” he says, “is life.”

It’s also the most precious resource on the planet, and a limited resource. Counterintuitive as that sounds in a state a few inches above the water table, Florida—and Palm Coast—will, at some point in the future, run out of water to supply mounting consumption. It’s basic math. “Are we going to run out of water this week, next week? No,” the mayor says. “This year, next year? No. But it is a limited resource.”

Two things will stave off that day of reckoning: significantly more conservation, and the development of alternative water supplies. Right now, conservation is the priority.

So Netts is leading a challenge. He’s joined mayors across the country to encourage residents to commit to saving water, and maybe win a free car, water-saving appliances and other prizes along the way.

The prize incentive is a bit hoaky: conservation is its own reward, especially when communities’ good health and sustainability depends on it. But there’s only so many ways to get people to participate in a challenge like this, and prizes, which include a Prius, are among them. (Palm Coast goes so far as to tie prizes to recycling.)

It’s called the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. It runs from April 1 through April 30. It’s a non-profit national community service campaign created by the Wyland Foundation, named for its founder, the artist Robert Wyland known usually by his last name alone, and for his enormous murals of whales. The challenge takes the form of a contest. The winning city will be the one whose mayor most inspires residents to make a series of informative, easy-to-use online pledges to reduce water and energy usage, pollute less, recycle more. You can take the challenge immediately here. The more people pledge, the greater their city’s chance to win.

Netts explains the challenge in a brief video the city produced. “Let’s show the other cities around the nation how Palm Coast takes care of opur planet,” Netts says in the video. Cities compete in categories set out by population. Palm Coast is in the 30,000-99,999 category.

Cities with the highest percentage of residents who take the challenge in their population category, a city news release states, are entered into drawings for hundreds of eco-friendly prizes, including home improvement gift cards, home irrigation equipment, and the Grand Prize Toyota Prius V. The challenge also features additional resources for residents to take their commitment of conservation even further, from regional water and energy resource issues to cost-saving tips at home.

It’s not rocket science. The pledges include commitments to take shorter showers, wash only full loads of dishes and laundry, power down to save electricity, landscape with climate-appropriate plants, recycle, drive less, use recyclable shopping bags, reduce paper use, use refillable water bottles (those plastic ones are landfills’ nightmares), waste less food (a difficult concept in the United States of Plenty). Or, to put it more earthily, “just because a house has a front lawn “doesn’t mean it has to be all St. Augustine grass,” Netts says.

“The whole idea is to get the whole community to pitch in and help us save water,” Netts said Friday morning. He then gave what seemed to him like an ideal example. This morning, after reading about the challenge in the News-Journal, a Palm Coast resident sent Netts an email about how she’d been walking by a faucet at Linear Park that was leaking water. She reported it, in hopes to have it fixed.

He emailed her back. “It’s exactly what the water challenge is all about,” Netts said.

Netts believes that ultimately, Florida will counter its coming water shortage by building desalination plants, the way other countries where potable water is scarce do. Palm Coast almost did so when it spearheaded a coalition of local governments in the latter part of the last decade to build a desalination plant in the county. It was an expensive proposition, with projected costs ranging between $180 million and $234 million. Even the planning was expensive. Palm Coast spent around $2 million, and while other governments spent far less, it was those up-front costs, and a housing crash that drastically diminished near-term population projections, that led to the consortium’s collapse.

But it’s only a matter of time before the state either puts an end to permitting consumption—since the state, not local governments, permit communities to draw water from the ground or from rivers—or compels communities to look at desalination-like projects again, Netts says.

“Look at California, 25 percent mandated reduction in water,” he says, referring to California Gov. Jerry Brown’s order this week of the state’s first mandatory water restrictions, to address a severe drought. Brown ordered the state’s Water Resources Control Board, which are the equivalent of Florida’s water management districts, to come up with any measures that comply with an overall 25 percent reduction in consumption.

“People should realize we are in a new era,” Brown said at a news conference, in comments cited by the New York Times and other media. “The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past.”

Netts echoed the same words Friday: “We’re going to learn eventually that water is a limited resource.”

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10 Responses for “Palm Coast Mayor Netts Urges Residents To Join Water-Conservation Challenge”

  1. Save Cotton Wear Hemp says:

    Splash the Frog……….really ? So if I stop watering my lawn and it turns brown, will code enforcement give me a fine or a Prius ? If we get rid of McDonalds and Wendys, do we get a reduction on our electric bills ?

  2. m&m says:

    I agree but why when I go down Belle Terre ealy in the morning it’s like going through a car wash. At least 90% of the sprinkler water ends up on the road. We have a very clean street though.

  3. tulip says:

    I’m all for conserving water but when the State of Fl. allows companies to come here and pump milllions and millions of gallons a day of water out of our aquifers and then bottle it and sell it somewhere for a big profit I get upset, especially when the ads come out telling people of the state of florida to conserve water’ because we’re in short supply. I guess it’s all about money.

    I’m in total agreement with Mayor Netts, we all should be doing things to conserve our water locally, and some of the things are really simple. Shorter showers, a little less landscape watering, most of us water too much anyway, checking for leaky plumbing, restaurants using smaller water glasses—most people don’t drink almost a quart of water at a meal. Little things like that add up to many gallons when everyone cooperates.

  4. Ron says:

    Water conservation is important. We have a vacation management company owned by Steve Milo suing the county because he does not like the new vacation rental ordinance. This type of business is one of the main cooperates of water use abuse. These short term rentals are allocated 7500 gallons per month but they are using five to ten times that amount. In fact one dwelling is using 52000 gallons per month. This is not a single family home. This is by definition is a hotel. Our county needs to be allowed to manage this type of abuse. In addition to suing the county Milo is also suing the Dunes water district. This abuse must stop.

  5. DwFerg says:

    Kudos to the Mayor—–In our empty nest residence, without a lawn to irrigate , our water bill is typically higher than our electric bill 8 months of year. This factor alone plus a dose of environmental awareness/consideration make us conservationists. Not sure how we can take it “up a notch” by using less. A new Prius may inspire some new ideas…..

  6. Retired FF says:

    I’m fairly certain the water used for irrigation on our roadways is reclaimed water which you wouldn’t want to drink or use for anything else anyway.

  7. Sherry E says:

    Just a little internet research will reveal that Water is the New Oil. When the Bush family and T Boone Pickens starts buying up thousands of acres here and in other countries. . . acres that just happen to control massive water aquifers. . . the hand writing is on the wall. They will be soon selling potable water (something that should be FREE, as a human right) to us at much more than we are paying now.

    What is obscene to me, is that we, nationwide, are using millions (maybe billions?) of gallons of “drinking” water to flush toilets every day! Why don’t we create systems for non-drinking water, and in the future, require all “new” construction to have dual plumbing systems. Use the current ones, where feasible, for all outside faucets, flushing toilets and maybe even doing laundry. . . using relatively clean/recycled but non-potable water. Then create a second system for kitchen and shower taps. Just my own idea. . . please, do not scream at me before really thinking about it.

    Before anyone starts with. . . but my dog drinks out of the toilet. . . close the lid, folks. . . you know, like doctors suggest you do when flushing. The saying (and often practice) in California for the past 30+ years has been. . . “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” LOL! I know, gross, huh? But, that is the general rule here at home, when it’s just hubby and me.

    That is precisely where we are all headed . . . Conserve OR Pay higher and higher prices for the liquid that is required to keep you alive.

    We, personally, are already paying for expensive Zero Water filters because the water here in Flagler Beach tastes so terrible. . . and the prices are slowly going up. In addition, our “natural” oak hammock landscaping (no lawn) and wood chips has received not one drop of water since 2005, when I returned to Florida from CA. We are already doing short showers, keeping cars in the garage/occasionally doing a commercial car wash, using the dish washer every 3 or 4 days, recycling . And, still looking for other ways to conserve.

  8. keeping it real says:

    And when that reclaimed water ends up on my car i use tap water to wash that crap off….

  9. Groot says:

    My original comment was not published so, I have modified it. I hope this meets with the editors approval.
    Water is vital and a very worthwhile cause, especially here in Palm Coast where it costs over $100 just for the privilege of having water pumped into our homes. However, many of us are more concerned with maintaining or reestablishing the integrity of our neighborhoods and our property values. That is, unless one lives in Grand Haven or F&C by the water. It has been noted on each day since 1/15 that F&C by the water and Grand Haven have shown real property value appreciation. Other areas of the city, not so much. The rest of us lag behind. Mr Mayor, please move off your dock and fix this travesty. We want our homes to have value again. We who don’t live in Grand Haven and F&C by the water also want to participate in the success of Palm Coast. Nice dock MR Mayor, your home has increased in value, mine has not. Please be more creative and work on creating public value for all of us.

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