A plan of attack

One Pacific Northwest company is doing a deep dive into their clients’ properties to seek out water savings.

Providing detailed Water Conservation Plans to clients is one way Pacific Landscape Management is focusing on water savings.
All photos courtesy of Pacific Landscape Management

At Pacific Landscape Management, crew members all the way up to those in key leadership roles recognize the importance of sustainability and how working in the green industry goes hand-in-hand with it.

In fact, sustainability and water conservation were two cornerstones behind the founding of the Oregon-based business in 2001.

That’s why the team at Pacific is so focused on providing sustainable solutions wherever possible.

Take-charge teaching

David Grover, branch manager, says that while saving water has been a priority from the beginning of the business, the company really began to focus on it over the last five years or so.

“One of the things we’ve really tried to focus in on is taking a very proactive approach to water conservation,” he says. “I think that most of the time our industry is very reactive when it comes to water conservation or just irrigation in general. Problems arise or things break…and then the obvious issues start coming to the surface. Then it’s just, ‘How do we problem-solve this?’”

And not only is it the right thing to do for clients and the Earth, but it’s also been a prudent business decision. Pacific Landscape Management achieved over $54 million in revenue in 2022 and landed No. 54 on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 List.

“Other than just doing good by our clients to reduce their water bills and doing right by our environment in saving water, on the business side, we looked at this as a way to drive revenue and drive business from it. If there are things we can do to save water, there are more projects and more business to come out of that. It seemed like a no-brainer good idea,” Grover says.

The first step when it comes to water conservation is always education — Grover says customers need to know why it’s important and how it can help them in the long run.

“It all starts with education and communication,” he says. “We don’t have full authority to just start doing stuff on the properties we manage without having approval from our customers. So, we’ve got to educate them and start to communicate with them better about where there’s new technology or new ideas and opportunities to save water.”

To do this, the company sets up quite a few “Lunch and Learns” with its client groups who are big property management firms. Grover says these have been very effective.

“We also do newsletters, and we just try and get out to a site and walk with the customer,” he says. “A lot of times that’s really what’s helpful. It’s not just sending an email about this thing we can do on your property — but going out and looking at it and showing them what you mean.”

Strategic surveillance

Once the customer is educated, Pacific has a product in place to provide them, something that will improve their irrigation system in its entirety rather than spotlight a specific problem.

“We came up with our Water Conservation Plans, and it’s a holistic plan that doesn’t just chase the obvious issues but looks at the whole property and identifies areas to save water,” he says. “We think this is great for our clients because it allows them to be intentional about where they are spending their money and getting a return on it.”

Grover says there are plenty of opportunities to save water and some might not be so obvious to clients. He adds that even if a property is green, healthy and thriving — water waste may still be happening.

Additionally, the Water Conservation Plans help the company’s property management clients better prepare for projects in the future to enhance the landscape.

“It can help budget for improvements to be made rather than just when there’s an issue, we have to go fix that,” he says. “They can look out a few years to some level 2 and level 3 priorities that they want to work toward after they accomplish the low-hanging fruit.”

Like with most irrigation issues, sometimes the biggest obstacles are underground. That’s why the plans focus quite a bit on giving clients a detailed look at the entire operation.

“It’s a deep dive into the system,” he says. “We go through the whole systems and aside from identifying projects, the plan also comes with a very detailed, digital system legend and map. That’s not about upgrading the system, but we believe it’s a super critical component to managing an irrigation system effectively. A lot of times we find when we take over management of a site, we go to the irrigation clock and there’s a torn-up, wrinkled sheet that’s barely legible.

“You also get a zone-by-zone analysis of the entire system,” Grover adds. “A lot of times it’s trying to identify things we can do to the system to upgrade it and make it more efficient. Maybe they have old technology and old components where there’s new technology out there.”

Irrigation Manager Artemio Morales says these Water Conservation Plans have been incredibly beneficial, and is more than looking at just the sprinklers on a site.

“We evaluate every single part of the property,” he says. “We even determine mature trees and sometimes propose for those to be eliminated because they use too much water.”

Savings outside the system

While irrigation systems tend to be a common contributor of water waste, Grover says there’s so many other elements to consider.

“It’s not just looking at the irrigation system,” he says. “Sometimes it’s about changing the landscape. A big thing that also gets identified is do we have grass in areas where it doesn’t make a lot of sense and we can get rid of the grass. Grass requires a lot of water.”

Morales agrees and says this is something more clients are coming around to.

“We’re always doing a lot of renovations and eliminating turf when we can,” he says. “We’re trying to push more for pressure-regulated heads and native plants.

“It’s becoming a little more popular,” Morales adds. “People want to go with more native plants that require less water and are low maintenance.”

At the end of the day whether it’s xeriscaping or other alternatives, Grover says eliminating unneeded turf in a landscape goes a long way.

“We manage water, which is a precious resource,” he says. “It’s something that is oftentimes wasted. The EPA put out a statistic saying about 50% of all outdoor water use is wasted. It’s usually either because of runoff or it’s being misapplied.”


With water rates on the rise, water conservation is becoming more popular and clients are seeking out preventative measures.

All things considered

Grover and Morales say one of the biggest motivators they’ve seen in customers wanting these Water Conservation Plans is simply the rising cost of water in their market.

“In the last five years, in our area of Portland and the Northwest in general, rates have increased dramatically,” Grover says. “A lot of the water districts around the area have just about doubled in the last five years. That’s because there’s a growing population here and a lot of people are wanting to move to the Northwest, and we just have old infrastructure and don’t have the right infrastructure to supply the growing population.

“There’s lots of investments going into that and it’s being paid for through increases in rates.”

While the measures laid out in the plan are designed to save water, and therefore money, Grover says it can be tricky to try and determine an exact figure.

“The water need from this season to last season might be different, so if we start promising ‘we’ll save you 20% on your water bill’ but we have a much warmer summer, it’ll require more water. It’s just hard to promise that.”

Grover adds that the company likes to provide third-party studies to clients to show some of these initiatives and demonstrate the potential for savings instead of giving out a hard number.

Plus, it’s not just rising water rates that have people making the move toward conservation. Grover says with more states issuing mandates having to save water is only inevitable.

“We don’t have a ton of regulations in our area at the moment, but I know that’s a big thing down in the South and in Southern California, Arizona and Texas,” he says.

“Yes, we are pushing it a little, but water conservation is pushing itself. We just want to be ahead of the curve. We want to be the company that was talking about this before certain municipalities or governments start mandating certain things.

“We want to be ahead of the curve and not just have our customers point out a new regulation and ask what we’re doing.”

Morales says he too expects to see water conservation gaining momentum, adding that it has been steadily over the past 16 years he’s been in the industry.

“I can see it growing every day,” he says. “Before it was kind of hard to get people committed to using water-based controllers, and now it’s becoming more and more popular. Everybody’s liking it because they’re seeing so much savings.”

While Grover also expects it to continue gaining enthusiasm, the burdens behind it aren’t going anywhere either.

“I expect to continue to see water become more expensive as populations continue to grow,” he says. “There’s only so much water in our world. It’s a finite resource and it’s going to be more and more imperative we manage it well.”

The author is assistant editor with Lawn & Landscape magazine.

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