Just like corn, capital and cars, the water question is really one of imbalance. There’s too much of it in the Midwest and not enough in California. Most of the accessible water is too salty to use (at least for now), and the five vast reserves of freshwater that sit just north of my home state of Ohio are under constant threat of being trucked or sucked west. Water flows to slow (or not at all) from Colorado River headwaters, and too fast off roofs and parking lots in Virginia, overwhelming the storm sewers and the Chesapeake Bay.
This month, I asked some of the smartest water people I know to take a crack at what water means for the landscape industry now and in the future. I got so much good stuff that I couldn’t fit it all in the magazine.
No matter your business, water matters to you. You can’t cut grass if it’s not growing, or if your city has convinced your customers to take a payday and tear out their turf. You can’t maintain the 300 million trees that have been turned to kindling in Texas. And hardscapers, you’re not off the hook, either: In Maryland, citizens are required to pay a rain tax for the impervious surfaces they install on their property. It’s an attempt to control stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay and therefore reduce the amount of chemicals in the water.
Which takes us to the Clean Water Act. EPA wants to increase its legal authority to include streams, ditches and ponds. This would mean increased permitting responsibility and requirements for the thousands of contractors who build, spray and otherwise maintain landscapes near these sometimes-temporary bodies of water. The agency just last month agreed to extend the comment period on the rule change, which means you have a deadline extension to make yourself heard.
I don’t have an answer for how to balance our nation’s reserves of quality water for use in the landscape, just as I don’t have ready answers for how to feed all our country’s hungry people, how to ensure everyone has enough money to send their kids to college or how to fix traffic jams on my way home from the office. I don’t have the answer, but I’ve put together a lot of good ideas in this issue that will help you find the opportunity and the answer to the water question.