California Gov. Jerry Brown seems to have been criticized from all sides for issuing new restrictions on water use in California. First, the public took exception with the fact that agriculture wasn’t limited to any greater degree above its already major limits on water availability. Second, came groups representing the turf and ornamental industry with support from the Irrigation Association contending that keeping grass and shrubs alive is necessary.
In an effort to sway implementation of new restrictions, the Irrigation Association (IA) sent a letter to Gov. Brown, which it termed as trying to be helpful in implementing new water-use restriction. The letter outlines the association’s stance as it relates to commercial and residential irrigation.
“The Irrigation Association remains committed to partnering with you, your administration, the legislature and water agencies to not only help achieve a full 25 percent reduction in the state’s potable water use, but also to continue best practices and responsible water use through the duration of this drought, and after these drought conditions end,” said IA Government and Public Affairs Director John Farner in his statement to Brown.
The association contends irrigation should be supplemental to rainfall but expressed concern that these new restrictions could unintentionally stifle the adoption and creation of new technological innovations in irrigation. The letter cited the use of smart controllers as an example.
“Smart controllers are not your run-of-the-mill ‘clock and calendar’ controllers, where users program a zone to irrigate for a defined amount of time on certain days of the week,” said Farner. “Rather, smart controllers irrigate to the need of the plants being irrigated.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “replacing a standard clock timer with a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller can save an average home nearly 8,800 gallons of water annually.” Smart controllers irrigate to the needs of the landscape and can keep landscape alive during water-stressed conditions, reducing water applied by 20 to 40 percent.
The IA says with careful management, this technology can help water agencies abide by the mandates set forth by the state.
IA also challenged the statement, “Irrigating outdoor ornamental landscapes is a questionable use of a limited resource when some communities are running out of water in this fourth year of drought.”
Managed landscapes provide more to communities than just aesthetic pleasure. These landscapes provide numerous environmental, economic and social benefits that many Californians have come to depend on throughout the years, says IA.
IA’s contention is that over the past few years, turfgrass has become synonymous with wasting water. However, IA believes that turfgrass does not waste water, people waste water. “Through effective management and innovative technologies, turfgrass can require the same amount, or possibly less, water than other trees or shrubs planted in a landscape,” it was suggested.
If implementation of IA’s position occurred, how much water savings would occur in the densely populated state? In announcing its stance, no numbers for millions of gallons of water that could be saved as opposed to stricter limiting of turf and ornamental watering was mentioned in its widely distributed position statement.
With all sides finding reason for not having excessive limits to water use in their business arena, the governor and state agencies are in a tight pinch considering major changes in water use that has to occur.
It is obvious that most Californians are not comfortable with desert landscaped lawns, parks and business areas. And a change in landscaping would have a major impact on businesses involved with landscape services.
But it’s already been seen that agriculture has been impacted quite negatively with economic impact and could be impacted much more as the current drought lingers on or doesn’t quit for another couple years.