We think: Just cracking down on heavy users' thirst won't solve the water crisis
We know big-time athletes gulp down lots more water than the rest of us.
But really. Tiger. More than 100,000 gallons in April? And Dwight. Nearly 200,000 gallons in July?
Representatives of Mr. Woods and Mr. Howard explained in a Sunday Orlando Sentinel article that the superstars use the water primarily for the lawns and houses they own in the Orlando area.
They added that Mr. Woods and Mr. Howard don't wish to waste water.
Yet precisely because they do waste so much water -- they and other celebrity-athletes, like Grant Hill and Chris DiMarco, and nonjocks like auto dealer David Maus and state legislator Chris Dorworth -- water managers are trying to curb their appetites.
That's fine. But alone, it won't solve the region's growing water crisis.
Around Orlando and several other metro areas, for example, they're charging heavy users higher rates in hopes of getting them to turn off the spigots. We, in fact, support their ratcheting up rates for heavy users. But charging many deep-pocketed residents a third, half or even twice the rate of what their more-conservation-minded neighbors are facing for water likely won't discourage many from soaking their lawns.
In Sarasota, they're shaming water gluttons -- or at least they're trying to shame them -- by publishing online the top 100 residential customers. That has some appeal.
How about publishing the names of the top thousand water hogs? Officials admit, however, that they don't know whether the publicity's actually making them use less.
But even if it did, it wouldn't solve much. Get Mr. Hill in Orange County to cut his monthly water consumption by 100,000 gallons, for instance, and we're still faced with his Central Florida neighbors drawing more than 600 million gallons daily from the aquifer.
And not just residential neighbors. Water managers say that a typical golf course in our region uses about a half-million gallons of water per day.
No, it's going to take a lot more than coming down hard on the region's heaviest users to ease the burden on the increasingly stressed Floridan aquifer, which supplies Central Florida with most of its water.
To do that -- and to avoid tapping environmentally fragile rivers and lakes -- everyone has to do his part.
Officials need to enforce limits they've placed on irrigation, new developments ought to ban water-gulping St. Augustine grass, more governments should subsidize homeowners who make their lawns drought-tolerant, and new homeowners should install soil-moisture sensors and low-flow plumbing fixtures.
Do that, and they'll help preserve a key resource that too many -- famous or not -- are depleting.