Irrigation Insider: The Big Picture

By Luke Frank

It won’t be long now until we start to see water in the news again. It’s become a perennial favorite of the news media. I suppose that’s good in that it brings awareness to how important the landscape and irrigation industries are to our communities’ hydrologic health. I further suppose it brings awareness to how important the landscape and irrigation industries are when neglecting our communities’ hydrologic health.

Let’s take in a larger view of the urban water resource “landscape.” There are a couple of places to focus on in the upcoming months that promise to offer cutting-edge insight in the development, management and delivery of urban water to cultivate and sustain our green space.

ASIC 2008 annual conference

I might as well start at the heart of it — large-scale irrigation projects. The American Society of Irrigation Consultants (ASIC) annual conference, May 17-19 in northern California’s Napa wine country, has a power group of innovators in its education lineup to the theme of “Rescuing Resources.”

This is a pretty interesting group of heavy hitters in the businesses of designing infrastructure to sustain significant acreage of ornamental landscape and functional turf. These folks have designed irrigation capture, storage, treatment and delivery systems for office parks and amusement parks, golf resorts and airports, horseracing tracks and housing tracts, ball fields and polo fields.

If you want to know what is happening — and is going to happen — in urban landscape irrigation, the ASIC conference is the place to be. ASIC’s educational slate always includes important irrigation design, installation and management principles and techniques, but also gets into issues like large-scale rainwater harvesting, biotechnologies, maximizing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design points, and more.

A unique element to this conference is the interdisciplinary panel discussions on improving the irrigation process from conception to operation. Irrigation designers, contractors and managers work through ways to accommodate one another in providing good product that protects the landscape investment and the resource.

For more information about the ASIC 2008 annual conference, visit

WaterSmart Innovations

The other conference taking a progressive, holistic look into the urban water crystal ball is the WaterSmart Innovations 2008 Conference and Exposition, slated for Oct. 8-10 in Las Vegas.

Organized and hosted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), WaterSmart Innovations will be a venue for urban-water-efficiency exchanges among international leaders in their fields. According to Doug Bennett, SNWA conservation manager, a call for papers yielded more than 200 responses from five countries.

What a great place to cross-pollinate water-management ideas with water agency professionals, city planners, land developers, architects, green-home builders, facility and property managers, professional plumbers and others. The three-day event, loaded with professional sessions, workshops and technical tours, is expected to usher more than 1,000 industry professionals through 100-plus exhibits showcasing water-efficient landscape and irrigation equipment, software and technology; large appliances; plumbing fixtures; and other water-efficiency related innovations.

“We all rely on innovation to play an important role in making communities more water efficient,” said Bennett. “So we’re assembling national and international innovators in their respective water-management disciplines to integrate and complement one another’s successes.”

For more information about WaterSmart Innovations, visit

Big-picture perspective is the stuff of leaders who don’t just predict future trends but direct them. It’s also generally overlooked by the news media, which more frequently emphasize “bleed-to-lead” breaking news bytes.

So watch the news and listen to the stories about devastating extended drought, imposing watering restrictions, scandalous water waste, and water tables receding at alarming rates. These stories can whip the populace and the politicians into a self-righteous, finger-pointing frenzy that likely will affect your business sooner or later.

As an industry, we’ll be perceived as the water resource problem until we position ourselves as the solution. So we need to offer legitimate answers to acute irrigation problems, while addressing long-term water resource challenges and opportunities.

The two above-mentioned venues should help to equip us if called upon for solutions. Remember, if we can’t solve some of our own urban outdoor water problems, the policy wonks will find somebody who can.

Luke Frank has been an editor and publisher in the green industry for the past 17 years, addressing water resource development, management and conservation through the irrigation profession. His field experience includes 17 years as an irrigation foreman, contractor and manager in the landscape, turf, golf and nursery industries. He currently resides in Albuquerque, N.M. He can be reached via e-mail at

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