Water is the one resource that impacts every single person in the landscape industry, whether or not you make your money piping, pumping and spraying it on customers’ turf. Consider all the inputs and stresses on a landscape business in 2013; fuel, health insurance, equipment, fertilizer, seed, labor, overtime. Water is going to have the biggest long-term impact on your business regardless of region, business model or customer base.
Here’s why: Without water, no one can do their job. You can’t cut grass that isn’t growing. You can’t spray water if you can’t get it in the first place. And an added bonus: Water conservation is a cause everyone can get behind, unlike many of those other, often divisive, topics I mentioned above.
Water isn’t renewable. Despite what the science posters told us in second grade, water reserves are not all what they once were. Aquifers dry up. Human intervention diverts rivers and dries up lakes. Punishing summers like we had last year are going to become more common, not less.
Water is (mostly) cheap now, but it’s going to get really expensive. The country’s water infrastructure is crumbling and municipalities need a way to pay for the upgrades. Rates in some cities have already gone up by triple-digit percentages. Cities across the country are installing mandatory “smart” meters that can better track usage, which means more accurate pricing and the potential for shutoffs when you use too much.
In addition to the price change, water supplies will continue to be strained with population growth continuing unabated in the sunbelt, mountain states and West Coast. Every winter seems longer in the north country, and the more temperate winters of California and Georgia tempt these poor Yankees.
And, if you choose not to believe me on any of the above points, the bottom line is this: Water management is the easiest way to show dollars-and-cents value to a client. Of all the services landscapers offer, it’s the only one that has clear, tangible, almost immediate ROI. Sure, you can talk about the environmental benefits of turfgrass and trees, or the somewhat-fuzzy curb appeal that nice annual installations bring to a shopping mall. But if you want to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” with absolute certainty, start pulling out water bills.
Because water is so important to so many people, we’ve dedicated our July issue to water. In the pages that follow, we’ll tell you about how landscapers in Colorado worked with their association, their (sometimes) enemies in the statehouse and water purveyors to educate customers about the importance of water smart landscapes. We examine new technology available to irrigation contractors that can make systems even more efficient. We discuss the best way to light water. We had our crack team of water writers from ValleyCrest look at how water regulations are changing across the country, and what the future holds for water use. And we look at tools available to lawn care operators to help them manage water even more effectively. – Chuck Bowen L&L