IA Water Conference

Features - Irrigation

The Irrigation Association’s annual event featured educational sessions and discussions on solving water issues.

November 2, 2011

In late June, The Irrigation Association hosted its third annual water conference in Broomfield, Colo. This annual water conference brings together irrigation industry and other stakeholders to discuss current and future water issues. This year's water conference was titled: "Water for the Future: The Role of Efficient Irrigation." The two-day conference was moderated by Mary Lou Smith from the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. The conference drew a wide range of participants, including farmers, design professionals, government agencies, association representatives, lawyers, national corporations and irrigation contractors and consultants.

The conference also included two pre-conference sessions. Of interest to the landscape industry was the one titled "Integrated Water Management for Buildings and Grounds." This half-day seminar outlined the theory and applicability of having a "net-zero" building. A net-zero building involves having all water and energy be produced by the building and then used by the building or returns the same amount of water and energy it takes externally back to its source. From the irrigation side, this means using captured rainwater, stormwater, recycled water and air conditioning condensate as well as solar powered controllers and, in some cases, pumps. From a landscape side: native or low water use plants, green roofs, bioswale, green walls and porous pavers are important components.

The conference format consisted of general sessions on water policy and future irrigation issues while breakout sessions on specialized subjects were utilized for both agriculture and landscape stakeholders. The general sessions included an opening session by IBM on groundbreaking technologies in water management and a presentation on "Conservation Partnerships: Promoting Healthy Fisheries through Efficient Irrigation" by Trout Unlimited. This presentation outlined success stories where fish habitat was conserved as well as water while the farmer or urban area still received enough water to grow crops or provide services.

These programs, which are becoming more prevalent in the western United States, in most cases, do not rely on public funds, but are private partnerships that have well-defined goals before being implemented.

Many thought the highlight of the conference was a presentation by Walmart's, Don Moseley, director of sustainability for Walmart who discussed the "Role of Sustainability in Water Management." His presentation highlighted Walmart's new landscape and irrigation sustainability initiatives, which include green roofs, rain water harvesting and increased use of drip irrigation. He presented several case study projects of various Walmart locations including Aurora, Colorado and McKinney, Texas pointing out the sustainable water, energy and landscape initiatives that were involved in the design and construction. He elaborated on issues that Walmart has faced with sustainable irrigation both on the case study projects and others. Walmart new initiative requires that irrigation systems be designed by an Irrigation Association Certified Irrigation Designer.

An interesting round table discussion moderated by Warren Gorowitz from Ewing Irrigation Products brought together a landscape maintenance contractor (ValleyCrest), a water purveyor (City of Santa Rosa, Calif.) and an Irrigation Consultant (Russ D. Mitchell and Associates) to discuss the implementation and effects of California Assembly Bill 1881 which regulates irrigation water use and came into effect earlier this year. The discussion centered on whether the new regulations are enforceable as previous attempts to regulate landscape water use in California were not enforced. The feeling of the group was that these regulations were easier to enforce from the purveyors standpoint, but more detailed and therefore more work for the designer and installer.

The first night's dinner speaker was sociologist David Freeman. His highly entertaining talk was titled: "Water: We Get What We Organize For – A Sociologist's View," and pointed out the fact that the more organized groups are the more likely they will be able to get what they want and in this case, water. As a result, you are seeing much more of a larger group effort when trying to obtain water or change existing water regulations and law.

The Water Conference, which was co-sponsored by the American Society of Irrigation Consultants (ASIC), included the presentation of ASIC's 2011 National Excellence in Irrigation Awards. These awards are presented for outstanding irrigation design in categories of golf, landscape, analysis and research.

The closing session of the conference was a participation segment where the audience could ask questions and initiate discussion with the speakers at the conference. The dialogue was quite detailed, but mostly centered on the need to protect irrigation water for future generations without damage to the environment and the economy and suggestions and comments on how that can be accomplished.


The author is president of Irrigation Consulting, Inc., an irrigation design and consulting firm headquartered in Pepperell, Mass. He can be reached at bvinchesi@giemedia.com.