By Estella R. Fullmer
For Hometown News
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Taking advantage of the First Saturdays Art Walk crowd, the Utilities Commission attempted to raise awareness for water conservation at its second annual Water-Wise Garden Fair in partnership with Lindley's Nursery and Garden Center at 200 Canal St. on March 2.
Despite the chilly temperatures and gusty winds, crowds of people turned out for the Music Festival, Art Walk, Farmer's Market and Garden Fair.
Ellen Asher of the Utilities Commission and fair organizer urged participants to take a look at the water-wise garden on Canal. The garden shows off energy-friendly plants and irrigation techniques that are kind to the local climate. "We also have a variety of programs available for people to help them save on their energy bill. Just come down to the UC and ask," Asher said.
One of the programs is called Snap to It and uses water wise landscaping. Residents can pick up a free sprinkler timer by submitting a photo of themselves and their garden. "Be sure your photos have you in them and your water wise plants clearly shown and identified," states a UC brochure.
Another program is a free low-flow shower head exchange. Bring in an old 2.5 gallons per minute shower head and get a 1.5 gpm massage shower head free. The UC claims it could save up to 40 percent on water consumption and provides high pressure at low volumes. Only one free showerhead per service location and you must be a UC customer, according to the website ucnsb.com.
"We also offer a free home energy audit to our customers," said another UC representative. "They just need to contact us to set it up. An inspector comes in and points out areas of energy loss or where they can improve to save money on their bill." This service is open to rental tenants as well as home owners.
The fair sported several displays from local businesses, such as Lindley's, Home Depot, CSI Natural and Wayne's Solar. There was a display of organically gown plants in a water reclamation shelving unit. Two young ladies even brought their goat to draw people's attention to organically grown foods, such as goat jerky and dairy products. There was a bucket toss for the children who received prizes from the UC for participating and a mini workshop for the children from Home Depot.
The University of Florida also provided literature on Florida gardening and "green" living. The display included a map of the Florida aquifer system and how to protect it. The display even explained how sinkholes are formed by acidic rainwater dissolving the limestone in the aquifers causing large caves underground. Eventually the sand above the holes collapses and sinkholes appear. These then are often filled with water and that is how many of Florida's lakes were created.
Raffling of painted rain barrels rounded out the fair with the UC encouraging people to use reclaimed water to irrigate their lawns and gardens. Door hangers reminding the public of the St. Johns River Water Management residential irrigation watering restrictions were prominent. More information on the restrictions can be found at floridaswater.com.
In addition to the garden fair there was a music booth by WSBB AM 1230 as part of the First Saturdays Art Walk featuring local talent. Merchants and art galleries opened their doors and lined Canal St. with pop-up tents displaying paintings and a variety of arts and crafts. The NSB Farmer's Market also sported fresh fruits and vegetables and other items for sale by individual vendors. The art walk and farmer's market are open the first Saturday of each month in downtown New Smyrna Beach.