One of the common challenges for landscape irrigation professionals is the number of customers that “know more about watering than we do” (just ask them). Smart Irrigation Month is another opportunity to send the right message that helps establish our industry as professionals competent to manage our water efficiently and keep our landscapes healthy.
I’ve told this story a million times, but I think it always illustrates the misunderstanding of efficient irrigation strategies. About seven years ago, I was asked by our local youth baseball league to help with managing the water use on one of their fields close to my house. They paid about $2,000 for water the previous year. Understanding the parameters, I knew it should be closer to $500. After a quick survey of the system, we were able to turn it into a training event with a local distributor. We swapped out the controller for an accessible weather-based model, tuned up the sprinklers with some replacements, maintenance and correct nozzles.
In the first year, the water use dropped to less than 30% of the prior year and has remained about the same since. Last month, I had my annual my annual talk with the new crop of volunteer parents anxious to establish their mark on the irrigation schedule. This year was an interesting twist from the new “experts” who clearly took aim at the full-circle zones with half the precipitation rate as the others, as well as their preferred start times for every zone. Once I got the notification from the controller platform, I changed it all back and sent the reminder to the league president to let the field volunteers know that the schedule was being managed by a “professional” and to leave the watering alone. I didn’t have any pushback this year, but there have been a few years where I had to have a lengthier discussion with a couple of dads presenting some compelling arguments about why the irrigation should be scheduled the way they recommend, as they clearly had extensive training and experience.
July is Smart Irrigation Month and is the perfect time to help share the message to anyone we can about the concept and importance of efficient irrigation. Every year our message gets out to more and more individuals who slowly begin to understand why smart irrigation practices are important. Water is a valuable resource to our communities and landscape water use is staggering. Healthy urban landscapes are also a huge asset to our environment and water is a critical part of that picture. More watering is not necessarily better. Our irrigation systems are tools to help provide supplemental water when there isn’t enough natural precipitation and should only be used when needed. What seems simple to us as professionals is many times a difficult concept for the end user to grasp.
Smart Irrigation Month presents an opportunity to create the engagement needed for this to become common knowledge. When people ask about the initiative, we need to be prepared with a clear, simple message. Encourage people to talk about this by promoting it to your customers. Do it by email, your invoices, your social media and any other forum you use to interact. Gauge your success with how many ask, “What is Smart Irrigation Month”?
The Irrigation Association provides a number of easy to use tools at smartirrigationmonth.org. There are guides for messages you can deliver increased understanding of the benefits of efficient irrigation, as well as resources for traditional and social media with specific tools to market your business.
Ultimately, it is up to us to get the word out, since most of us that are involved in the industry already know what this is all about. Share it in your networks and start a conversation about this. Explain why this is important and the many benefits. Establish the connection between Smart Irrigation Month and you as a professional landscape irrigation expert.