February 9, 2017
No rain means conserve water, protect environment
By Naples Daily News editorial board
Despite a few recent showers that turned grass greener in some places, much of Southwest Florida is dry and the fire season danger remains real.
So while weíre comforted by a recent presentation to Collier County commissioners that our rural areas are in good hands when it comes to fire suppression, itís also important that we all do our part in keeping the region safe. That means remaining fire smart and preserving one of our most precious natural resources, water.
As of Monday, Lee County was one of the two driest counties in the state along with Indian River County on the central Atlantic coast, according to a fire danger map on state websites thatís based on soil conditions.
A swath from North Naples through Golden Gate Estates to Immokalee wasnít far behind on the fire danger scale, according to the map.
Called the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, it attaches a numerical rating from zero (wettest) to 750 for dryness conditions. Lee and northern Collier were in the 600 and above level. Thatís in the wildfire danger and severe drought range where vegetation can burn even if itís not dried out.
Rain, rain went away
What a difference a year makes.
As of Tuesday evening, AccuWeather data shows the Naples area had received 0.89 inch of rain so far in 2017, below the 2.35 inches historically normal. The Fort Myersarea was at 1.54 inches so far in 2017, about an inch below normal.
Contrast that with the soggy start to 2016 when the Naples area had received nearly 8 inches of rain by now and the Fort Myers area more than 14 inches by the first week of February 2016. By yearís end, however, the Naples area had recorded only 44.5 inches compared with the 52-inch normal yearly rainfall. The Fort Myers area ended 2016 with about 8 inches more annual rainfall than is normal, AccuWeather reported.
How quickly Lee County and northern Collier have dried out to now become one of the two areas facing the greatest fire danger among 67 Florida counties.
In addition to tropical storms, wildfires are a leading threat to the region. A recent presentation noted fire agencies typically respond each year to 130 brush fire and wildfire calls involving 2,800 burning acres Ė there are 392,000 acres in the wildland urban area.
February, April, May and June are the most dangerous dry months, according to reports.
You can do your part, such as removing branches touching the home, clearing away brush within 30 feet of the home, and removing combustibles from near structures.
Lack of rainfall doesnít just contribute to the increased wildfire danger, it also puts a further strain on our vital future water supply.
The November private-public joint report Water 2070 predicts water usage in Florida by that year could double what was consumed in 2010. Water conservation measures could appreciably reduce that; the report suggests a 20 percent per person reduction could be appropriate.
The report notes half the water used by households is for outdoor watering of lawns and landscaping. So kudos also go to the city of Naples and its many residents who have connected to a nearly decade-old treated-water reuse system that reduces the need for raw water from interior Collier.
You can do your part by adhering to watering rules where you live; in some communities outdoor watering in night and early hours is two days a week while in others it's three. Your address determines which days.
While we donít control rainfall, we do have the ability to use it wisely.