Landscape Industry Discussion of Water Use, Growth, and COVID-19 Impacts
The 2021 Urban Landscape Summit kicked off with a State of the Landscape Industry panel. This first session provided an overview of today’s landscape industry conditions. Opening remarks and panel discussion focused on water use and growth around Florida. Panelists also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the landscape industry and water use.
Dr. Scott Angle, UF/IFAS Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources, provided the opening remarks. Dr. Angle focused on the impact the Center for Land Use Efficiency and the landscape industry on changing behavior.
“We’ve got to find ways to give homeowners the options that they want but done in a more sustainable way than they have in the past. We’ve got to make sure that we support our traditional agriculture and forestry as well,” said Dr. Angle.
The panel continued with speakers from the landscape industry, water utilities, and developers.
Phillip Hisey, On Top of the World communities director of landscape operations, discussed how On Top of the World is handling new irrigation and composting programs as well as being competitive in the development market.
“As we continue to grow in this state, we’re going to have to get more inventive on how we irrigate yards. Get more efficient. Conservation is certainly a key too. But there’s a difference between conservation and efficiency,” said Hisey. “We’ve got to be more proactive.”
Rick Hudak, Lennar Corporation director of quality assurance, emphasized how working with Extension helped to develop a lawn establishment watering schedule. The watering schedule has saved their developments and homeowners significant amount of water. They have also demonstrated that you can establish a lawn in 30 days.
“Changing that mindset to where what do you mean we’re now overwatering?” said Hudak. “And it was between even our sod companies, our irrigation companies, we had to get everyone on board. A lot of meetings, a lot of buy-in because you know you’re changing the industry.”
Adam Jones, Massey Services vice president and director of quality assurance, talked about changing their services to add irrigation maintenance. He discussed adjusting their business strategy to provide same-day irrigation maintenance service to customers. Massey is also working towards a long-term goal of upgrading to more water efficient irrigation systems.
“We’ve made a huge impact on not just the quality of your customers’ landscapes but in terms of reducing what I’ll call usage of water,” said Jones. “We’re trying to figure out how to make every gallon go to some beneficial purpose.”
Mike Sweeney, Toho Water Authority deputy executive director, discussed how utilities are working with alternative water supply projects. He also explained how innovation and public-private partnerships are important to conservation work.
“It’s a really hard sell in central Florida or anywhere in Florida for that matter given how much water is on the surface. And people that are new to the state and they’re moving down here rapidly why could there be any problem with having not enough water,” said Sweeney. “It is a challenge to get people’s heads around the fact that they need to be diligent about their water use.”
Panelists concluded by answering questions and re-emphasizing the need for partnerships between extension, developers, landscape industry, and homeowners.