POINT OF VIEW: Why soil and water conservation should matter to you

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The traditionally nonpolitical Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) recently became much better known after November’s contentious Board of Supervisors election. The friction erupted over the SWCD’s Mobile Irrigation Lab.

The lab is a free, consultative service offered to local growers. Paid for through the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the lab provides technical analysis and recommendations to farms and nurseries regarding irrigation water management and efficiency. For the past 12 years, the lab has been conserving hundreds of millions of gallons of water per year in Palm Beach County, saving growers thousands of dollars and drastically reducing water usage estimates.

So far this year, the Mobile Irrigation Lab has documented actual savings of 78 million gallons from its over 100 visits to farmers and growers, with the potential to save over 150 million gallons by the end of the year. This conservation has a significant beneficial impact on irrigation runoff, water purity and utility pricing for county citizens.

Recently, the lab came under fire from several of the same SWCD supervisors elected to promote conservationism in our county. These supervisors want to privatize the “free” lab program, which would not only make these services unavailable to many small farms and nurseries but could also result in the loss of local SWCD jobs.

Fortunately, the Mobile Irrigation Lab program was recently rescued by a narrow vote margin and will remain a functional water and money-saving program for county residents, at least for now. However, instead of forcing the majority of the supervisors to spend valuable time justifying programs like the lab, which has consistently demonstrated quantifiable results, all SWCD supervisors should be seeking the money to institute other constructive programs, like the defunded Urban Mobile Irrigation Lab. That lab program used to bring the same preservation applications rendered by the agriculture-focused Mobile Irrigation Lab to residential irrigation systems, and consequently offered even more direct benefit to county residents.

It is important to know who the county’s SWCD supervisors are, and who is running to replace them. The SWCD deserves leaders who will fight to leverage this community’s resources to appropriately serve the needs of county residents.

ROB LONG, DELRAY BEACH

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Editor’s note: Rob Long is a member of the Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District’s Board of Supervisors.

Original post here.