A June 21 webinar, co-hosted by the Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia; the California Landscape Contractors Association, Sacramento, California; and the National Association of Landscape Professionals, Fairfax, Virginia; followed up on additional topics from a June 6 webinar where panelists unpacked California’s new water restrictions, like tree watering and water restriction enforcement. The first webinar had received more than 70 questions from the event attended by more than 600 people.
Back for round two, panelists consisted of Maureen Erbeznik, principal at Maureen Erbeznik and Associates, Los Angeles, and Peter Estournes, CWM, CLP, CLIA, vice president and principal of Gardenworks Inc., Healdsburg, California. Warren Gorowitz, CLIA, director of corporate social responsibility, Hunter Industries, San Marcos, California, served as the webinar’s moderator.
At the forefront of their advice, the panelists and Gorowitz urged webinar attendees to reach out to their local water agencies to receive responses specific to their area, instead of relying on general or state-level answers from the webinar.
“The most important thing we can leave you with — because things will change — is please check with your local agency for the most up-to-date information and the most region- or location-specific information as it relates to restrictions,” Gorowitz says.
Currently, all California residents are being asked to follow water restrictions that include voluntarily cutting water use by 15% and banning watering nonfunctional turf in commercial, industrial and institutional properties for one year, as of the June 21 follow-up webinar. This watering ban does not impact single family homes. Exemptions to this ban include watering trees or turf grasses with a plant factor of 0.3 or less, if nonpotable water is used and if watering is required for health and safety reasons.
One of the biggest pieces of advice Estournes and Erbeznik emphasized was for irrigation professionals to work closely with their local water agencies. It’s up to the water agencies to enforce the water restrictions, but they rely heavily on resident reports if someone is breaking the rules.
“Start the relationship with your local water provider so they understand that you are doing the right thing,” Erbeznik says. “The goal here is efficient use of water and not wasting water, so no runoff, trying to get as much point-source irrigation as you can.”
At the core of the water restrictions is an educational opportunity for lasting change, Estournes says. He believes that municipalities are probably going to use education over punishment, unless someone is a repeat offender or goes against the restrictions to an extreme level.
“Education, I think, is actually the best way to do this,” Estournes says. “If people are aware of what the situation is and trust that the information is accurate, then they’re apt to work with municipalities to save what they can.”
The future of California’s water restrictions remains a mystery, as it depends on the success of the state’s ability to save water since the restrictions started in early June. Both panelists encourage companies to push off any new landscape projects until the fall when California and its water agencies revisit water amounts and needs.
“June will be a critical month, because we’ll see what the water supply situation is,” Erbeznik says. “If people haven’t reduced their use, then it’s likely that there’s going to be more restrictions coming in August.”
For those concerned about how the water restrictions will impact their landscape business into the future, Estournes predicts that if the water restrictions are able to ease soon, that “things will bounce back and plants have a tendency to recover.”
“Long term is don’t panic, investigate, make a plan, implement and monitor the plan and make adjustments accordingly,” Estournes says. “It will take some work, but that’s what we’re in the business for.”
Additional topics the follow-up webinar tackled include rebate programs for turf and smart irrigation technology replacements, recycled water, watering of nonfunctional turf areas, low water-use grass alternatives, water management software and possible water restrictions for nurseries.
Watch the full webinar on the Irrigation Association’s YouTube channel at youtu.be/rIYsYSml_wM.