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SARR speakers talk barrier island water management

By Staff | Jun 15, 2012

Photo by Shannen Hayes Sanibel’s groundwater is fresh, maintains a steady temperature year round and has great potential for thermal exchange, enabling both cooling and heating. Rainfall can also be stored and used for domestic purposes beneath permeable and impermeable surfaces. This system is installed at Benchmark, along McGregor Blvd, and created by Sanibel Alliance for Renewable Resources (SARR) President Mark Anderson.

After the Sanibel Causeway was built to replace the ferry in May 1963, island residents fought back against overdevelopment by establishing the Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan in 1974 to help maintain a balance between development and preservation of the island’s ecology.

The Sanibel Alliance for Renewable Resources (SARR), a non-profit organization, was created to educate and encourage island residents and business owners to become leaders by example in the use of renewable resources. Its priorities include energy, nature and water.

“Sanibel takes the lead in sustainability,” said SARR President Mark Anderson during a recent meeting at the Community House.

More than 50 people, including members of the City Council, Planning Commission, city staff and representatives of “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, attended the June 7 meeting on “The utilization and management of water on a barrier island.”

Three distinguished speakers Dr. Simeon Komisar, environmental engineering program director at Florida Gulf Coast University, Leigh Gevelinger, a landscape architect with R.S. Walsh and Anita Marshall, head gardener at Sanibel Moorings spoke on the topic of water conservation on the islands.

Komisar provided an insightful view of the work being done at FGCU to explore the links between climate, water management and energy conservation. He spoke about the modern approaches to the efficient use of water and how islanders can make use of one of Sanibel’s unique qualities its groundwater.

The water is fresh not saline, maintains a steady temperature year around and has great potential for thermal exchange, enabling both cooling and heating. Sanibel’s rainfall can be stored and used for domestic purposes beneath permeable and impermeable surfaces with important long-term environmental benefits.

“Sustainability provides for now and the future,” said Komisar. “My focus is on rethinking waste water as a way to recover energy.”

Gevelinger described to the audience how many keen gardeners could take advantage of water detention. It collects rainfall naturally; filters out particles and pollutants from non-permeable surfaces; and creates micro sites in gardens for wildlife, butterflies and native plants. He talk was illustrated by photos of Sanibel properties that show many attractive effects achieved by planning for sustainability.

“Sanibel is amazing and always embracing sustainability initiatives,” said Gevelinger.

Gardens, especially the botanical gardens at Sanibel Moorings, were highlighted by the Moorings head gardener Anita Marshall, who also writes the weekly “What’s Blooming” column in the San-Cap Islander. She talked about the history of gardens, many and different contributions made by her predecessors as the gardens developed, and her own vision for the future of the environment created by a combination of nature and human skill.

“We are extremely grateful to our speakers for their original and insightful presentations,” said Anderson. “And we are delighted that so many residents, dignitaries, representatives of island non-profits and city officials were able to come along to our meeting on this important topic for Sanibel.”

For more information on SARR, visit www.sanibelenergy.com.