I’ll Change When They Do

By Linda Townes, Conservation Garden Park

We often hear complaints about schools, apartment complexes, commercial businesses, parks and even government properties being watered in the rain. Water shaming is a real thing, and there are even websites for it.  It’s easy to judge these highly visible properties that are clearly using water inefficiently when we have been asked to conserve. It’s unfair. But while all water users should be wise water stewards, water management of commercial, industrial and institutional properties is a far more complex challenge to resolve than it may appear at first glance. Let’s look at some of the challenges these types of properties face:

Irrigation is managed by someone other than the property owner

Homeowners have the luxury of being completely in control of their watering schedule. Even if they “set it and forget it” (which we don’t recommend), homeowners can run out to their garage and update their sprinkler clock, adjust it or even turn it off at any time. There are even smart controllers that allow you to control your sprinklers from your phone (which we not only recommend but offer rebates to help you purchase).

Many commercial properties don’t have this luxury and are frequently managed by landscape maintenance companies that have dozens of properties to maintain.  Landscape crews must get many properties ready in advance by testing irrigation systems and making early season repairs and adjustments. Unfortunately, they generally turn the water on for the season while they’re “in the neighborhood,” in March or early April, long before the landscape needs the extra water.

Turning off sprinklers for multiple properties can be impossible

Turning off the sprinklers for dozens of properties during a rain event can take more time than the rain event itself. By the time property managers get around to turning off the water for all properties, the rain may have ended hours, if not days, earlier; and it may be time to go around and turn them all on again. It can be a never-ending cycle that uses up all the time that should be spent maintaining the landscapes. That doesn’t excuse property managers, but it does open the door for finding a solution.   

The solution is not easy

How do we go about changing this practice? Implementation of smart technology, such as updating irrigation controllers and equipment to newer weather-based solutions that allow remote monitoring and adjusting, is the clear answer. New construction should be required to install these smart management systems at the time of construction, but not all cities require it.  Existing properties must be changed one property management company at a time: by city, by county, by ordinance. We’re not excusing wasteful practices, just explaining why they occur and how resolving the issues takes significantly more money, coordination and time.  It’s slow going, but progress is being made.    

What you can do

When your city or county has a council meeting with anything regarding water on the agenda, go! Speak up in favor of ordinances that support water-efficient practices.  Let businesses or property managers who’ve made the investment in conservation know that you appreciate their efforts. If you see a problem, instead of complaining on social media, let the company know. Sometimes it is simple oversight. Water conservation is a complex issue that we must work together to resolve.   

To take advantage of rebates for water-efficiency for your own property, visit UtahWaterSavers.com.