November 26, 2007

The Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board today approved a project that will reduce groundwater pumping at a citrus grove in Polk County.

The project involves installing an integrated irrigation system that will include a weather station, soil moisture sensors, and automated valves at the Camp Mack Grove, owned by Lykes Brothers, Inc. The grove is located northeast of Lake Wales.

Installing a weather station helps farmers irrigate more precisely, based on weather conditions. For example, during frost-freeze events the farmer has exact data for the area and can turn on the pumps at the appropriate time instead of pumping all night.

Installing soil moisture sensors and automated valves increases irrigation efficiency by only irrigating when water is needed.

The goal of this project is to reduce pumping from the upper Floridan aquifer. According to the water use permit, the citrus grove is allowed to use an average of 1,378,700 gallons per day (gpd) to irrigate 949 acres of citrus. The project is expected to reduce pumping by 68,935 gpd, or five percent.

This project is part of the District’s Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems (FARMS) program, which is a cost-share reimbursement program that conserves water and protects water quality.
The program began by funding projects within the Southern Water Use Caution Area (SWUCA) and has expanded to include projects within the entire District.

The FARMS program is jointly funded by state appropriations, the District’s General Fund, the District’s Governing Board and the District’s Alafia River, Hillsborough River, Peace River, Manasota and Withlacoochee River Basin Boards, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The FARMS Program is expected to reduce groundwater pumping by 40 million gallons per day over the next 20 years.

This project is expected to cost $100,000, of which up to $50,000 will be funded by the District’s Governing Board, Peace River Basin Board and state appropriations.

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