The Times, They Are A-Chaingin’

By Ed Klaas

Mark Twain is believed to have said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” What would he think if he were alive today? Extreme and rapidly changing weather seems to be the new normal. The pendulum appears to swing back and forth at a faster pace and its swings go farther and farther to the extremes. Some parts of the country have experienced record drought, record rainfall, coldest temperatures, hottest months and years, record snowfall, and violent storms — not just over the last century but all within the span of the last few years. However, drought, particularly exceptional drought (D4), defined by the National Drought Mitigation Center as “exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies,” seems to have the greatest impact on the landscape industry.

Looking at the snapshots of six separate weeks over the past half-decade, it is easy to see that severe, extreme, and exceptional drought have touched a great deal of the country at one time or another while ignoring other regions altogether. Sometimes these extremes even occur simultaneously within the country.

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Thomas Philip “Tip” O’Neil, Jr., used to say “All politics is local”; so it is with weather. Southern and central California are at the epicenter this week, but Texas, parts of the Southwest, Midwest, and Deep South have recently experienced tremendous disruption to business and lifestyle as a result of exceptional drought. And, once drought passes, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t coming back again, because it certainly may and probably will.

The landscape industry has been particularly impacted by drought, and many friends in the irrigation industry in particular would agree. However, we also agree that as with all adversity there is an equal or greater opportunity. Our customers are slowly coming around to the need to do things different for the Earth, and we have to learn to provide for them and for our own businesses. As it is with politics, so it is also with irrigation. There are a few national issues but fewer national standards, national laws or codes, and few national companies. Therefore, key industry issues will continue to be local or regional in nature as well.

With drought conditions expected to continue, irrigation professionals in every industry sector — from manufacturers to distributors to contractors, along with their landscape industry counterparts — will continue to feel pressure to become more efficient water stewards, and to help their customers do the same. This means raising awareness among customers and end users about the benefits of efficient irrigation, and increasing customer demand for water-efficient products and services.

PLANET continues to be in the forefront of the irrigation industry by spreading the word about the irrigation and water management issues to its members and throughout our industry. From this time forward, face this “new normal” with a new set of skills and a plan to more efficiently use our water resources, to improve soil, and to create beautiful and environmentally beneficial lawns and turf. Finally, “weather” all current and future economic and climatic changes with the new confidence you’ll gain by learning how to effectively market your mission to your community and by growing your business.

As Bob Dylan once sang, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” so too is the weather. The challenge for all of us is to adapt to those changes.

Ed Klaas is owner of Southern Sprinkler Systems, LLC, Roswell, Ga.

Article provided by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

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