Earlier this month, I was invited to serve as a panelist at the 2006 Rain Bird Intelligent Use of Water Summit in Pasadena, Calif., during the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Rose Bowl game or the parade, although Rain Bird invited me. The Water Summit offered a good perspective on water conservation efforts by our industry and what needs to be done to improve these efforts. Here are some of the highlights.

Water is a finite resource and its use is based on siphoning from the hydrologic cycle. The hydrologic cycle begins with precipitation where water runs off to collect in water bodies (lakes, oceans, rivers and streams) or infiltrates the soil to percolate to ground water. Water is then lost to the atmosphere by evaporating from surfaces or transpiring by plants. And the cycle continues.

Water conservation efforts are concerned with prioritizing uses. If you utilize water for one use, you take away from another use. Based on the U.S. Geological Survey of 2000, thermoelectric water use represents 48 percent of the withdrawals of water, irrigation (crop and landscape) is about 34 percent, public supply (where water is used for domestic, industrial and commercial applications) makes up 11 percent, industrial (for manufacturing and production of commodities such as food, paper, chemicals and petroleum refining) constitutes 5 percent, and other uses total less than 3 percent. Priority of uses is determined by societal, political and economic factors.

By making efficient use of water, more is available for other uses. This is especially important with irrigation water use. When we use water for domestic or industrial use, about 90 percent of the water used is eventually returned to water bodies or ground water where it replenishes water sources and can be used for other purposes. But for irrigation, only about half is reusable. The rest is lost to evaporation or transpiration. This fact, plus the visibility and public display of water through irrigation systems (maintained turf is about 50 million acres in America), makes irrigation a target for regulation. We have seen this in the form of irrigation bans and restrictions as well as regulation of plant materials and landscape designs and mandating effluent water use for irrigation, especially in the Southwest.

To avoid more restrictive regulation of irrigation, it is important that the industry step up efforts to conserve water. Irrigation manufacturers continue to introduce a wide array of products, such as controllers, sprinkler heads, micro-irrigation, to improve efficiency of water use in irrigation. Education becomes the key in seeing that these water conserving irrigation systems are designed, operated and maintained properly by grounds professionals as well as residential customers — the tougher nut to crack. Professional grounds managers have the opportunity to partake in irrigation courses offered through trade shows, conferences and workshops as well as courses offered by irrigation manufacturers. The homeowner, on the other hand, does not have these educational opportunities and relies on irrigation installers and contractors in this industry for direction. Your efforts to educate your customers on irrigation operation will go along way in helping conserve water and will also leave a favorable impression on your customers about your company.

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