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Tampa launches contest to promote water-wise landscaping

It doesn’t have to be xeriscape-- meaning plants that require little or no irrigation. It just needs to be water-wise.

TAMPA, Fla. — No doubt, lots of us will be tending to our lawns and gardens over the weekend and in the city of Tampa, there’s an added incentive.

The city has just launched this year’s contest encouraging people to conserve water while still maintaining beautiful landscaping.

Particularly proud of your garden? Got a lawn lauded by neighbors? Well, if your green thumb is also water-efficient, the city of Tampa wants to hear from you.

“They get to be acknowledged by their local leaders and they do get bragging rights for the neighborhood,” said Tampa’s Water Department Director Chuck Weber.

Tampa has launched a contest called the Community Water Wise Awards program. It recognizes individuals and businesses committed to conserving water resources and protecting the environment.

It doesn’t have to be xeriscape-- meaning plants that require little or no irrigation. It just needs to be water-wise.

"There are plenty of plants that are drought tolerant and they use very little water and they’re beautiful,” said Weber.

There’s no better example of that than Anni Ellis’s yard. In fact, Ellis was last year’s winner.

“I have drip lines everywhere. I’ve had those forever,” said Ellis, particularly proud that much of her garden is edible.

By no means is Anni’s yard sparse or colorless, either.

She uses drip bottles, soakers connected to rain barrels, even composting to create a ground cover that holds in moisture.

“I try to put the thing that the plant needs next to it. Like, I have compost out in the back. I have two composts going,” she said. “I have one that’s ready to go in one that’s continually moving.”

The city appreciates the effort because it helps save natural resources as the community continues to grow.

“It’s very important as far as conserving water to make sure there is enough water around for the people who are here now and the people that are maybe coming,” said Weber.

The contest has five categories including residential, multi-family, commercial, schools, and government or builder.

The city will send a team of local landscape specialists out to evaluate applicants’ yards and even make recommendations.

Applications are due by June 30. The winner gets a custom-made mosaic garden steppingstone, and as Weber said – bragging rights. But as the recent drought demonstrated, landscaping that helps to conserve water, said Weber, is a win for all of us.

Tampa’s water department says programs like these absolutely work.

Twenty years ago, they say, daily water consumption in Tampa averaged around 200 gallons per person. Today, even with all the growth we’ve seen, that’s down by half to less than a hundred gallons a day.

If you want to participate in the Water Wise landscaping contest, there’s an application available at awards.tampabaywaterwise.org.

You can also request an application by calling (813) 274-5912.