Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, but we Floridians know it’s really already here.

 

All of us probably have our own ways of recognizing the early arrival of the season that lasts until November.


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For me, there are a number of tells.

The first is the pound of face gnats I’ve swallowed while working in my garden, not counting the ones that flew up my nose.

Then there are the yellow flies that are as mean as their bites.

I once was riding my four-wheeler, going about 25 mph, when one caught up with me and stung me. That’s just not right.

And I’ve already begun to feel the effects of too much sun on the top of my head now that it lacks nature’s sunscreen, called hair.

But the clincher was getting into my car on a recent afternoon to find the thermometer reading 106 degrees. Unlike in Arizona, this wasn’t a dry heat.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the first four months of this year were the warmest Florida has recorded since recordkeeping began 122 years ago in 1895.

Oh boy, I can’t wait until August.

The heat is one thing, but the lack of meaningful rainfall is another.

The dry conditions have led to the numerous wildfires scattered throughout the state.

And they prompted the St. Johns River Water Management District to issue a “Water Shortage Warning Order” last week for the district’s 18 counties.

I found the following sentence in the news release about that order interesting: “Water conservation is at the core of our mission, and right now we need all hands on deck to secure our water supply during this drought.”

My reaction was similar to when I swallow a face gnat or inhale one.

The district routinely ignores its “core mission” when it readily hands out hundreds of permits to pump millions of gallons of water out of the Floridan aquifer for such critical operations as raising grass-fed beef.

That’s an aquifer that’s already depleted to the point our springs, with Silver Springs perhaps the most notable, are losing flow or drying up altogether.

The district likes to blame that low flow on years of drought rather than forcing the big users to conserve.

The prevailing theory in establishing minimum flows for rivers and springs seems to be that all will be OK when the rains return.

But what if drought is the new normal, especially because of the thing the district can’t talk about — climate change?

I do agree, however, that “all hands on deck” are needed to conserve water now. That’s a no-brainer when half of our potable water is used on landscaping.

It starts with individuals following the rules when watering their lawns. Heck, instead of the two days allowed, how about just one or none at all?

Are we doing enough in Jacksonville? No. Earlier this month, JEA said there has been a substantial increase in water usage during the past two years, with a “staggering 8.1 percent increase” over last year.

Most of that, JEA said, is due to irrigating landscaping because of the drought.

The water management district is asking for “voluntary” efforts to cut back on water usage.

That has been the approach for years, and it’s clearly not working.

To save Florida’s water supply and to return health to our springs, rivers and lakes, it’s time to consider tougher medicine for individuals and the big users who are sucking the aquifer dry.

If I sound irritable, blame it on the face gnats and the yellow flies and the long, hot summer ahead.

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ron.littlepage@jacksonville.com (904) 359-4284