For our trends issue, we asked Brent Mecham, Irrigation Association (IA) industry development director, and Chad Forcey, IA state affairs director to identify the biggest current trends in the irrigation industry, and how those trends are impacting the industry.
According to Mecham, the biggest trend in the landscape irrigation industry is reducing how much potable water is used for irrigation and to find ways to capture or harvest other on-site waters and use them for irrigation.
“Rainwater harvesting is a viable concept where rainwater is harvested and stored to be used for irrigation when it is not raining sufficiently,” said Mecham. “This also helps with reducing stormwater runoff from a site. In arid areas with very little or sporadic rainfall, harvesting other sources of water such as gray water systems, or capturing process water, air-conditioning condensate, and foundation water can all be used to provide supplemental irrigation as long as the water quality is adequate to support plant health.”
Mecham added that another trend is the increased use of drip irrigation systems to irrigate turf and plants.
“Drip irrigation can deliver water precisely to where the plants roots are or where we would like them to develop,” he said. “But with this more exact application of water comes the need for even better irrigation designs and installation. The drip system has to account for where the roots are in small or relatively young trees and shrubs but to also plan for the future so that the water will be applied to a larger area as the plants mature and the root system spreads. This takes planning and the need for maintenance personnel to assure that drip emitters are applying water to where it is needed by the plants to promote a good root system.”
According to Forcey IA’s recent survey of main contacts from IA member contractor companies* yielded results showing slowly climbing sales coupled with a continued emphasis on credibility through certification and licensing programs. Respondents also noted a continued focus on growing business opportunities through marketing, customer service and a solid reputation.
“Business needs continue to be of concern, with sales challenges, workforce needs, and increased competition as the three top issues, respectively,” said Forcey. “The economy, increased competition and sales and marketing challenges led the list in the 2012 survey.”
According to Forcey, when asked to rate issues impacting contractors, respondents chose the top problem of “fly by night” contractors undercutting the profits of law-abiding companies. This was followed by irrigation contractor licensing — licensing is also supported by an overwhelming 89 percent of contractors surveyed — and, challenges to the irrigation profession by plumbers, electricians or landscape architects.
“IA will continue to advocate for our contractor members in all of these areas, including working with members and local partners on grassroots efforts to advocate for critical industry issues at the state level and through the Landscape Water Management Contractor Common Interest Group,” he added.
* IA’s annual contractor survey polled 640 main contacts at IA member contractor companies. The survey featured a response rate of approximately 23 percent, and drew from a respondent group largely representing small business.