Campaign to conserve water

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt

Smart irrigation proponents advocate for Smart Irrigation Month in 2014 and beyond.

Jeremy Hunt was an early proponent of water conservation. As a student at the University of Nebraska in the early 1990s, he advised his then employer that promoting water efficiency was the only way for the irrigation industry to move forward and thrive. It’s a mindset he has gone on to instill in his own company, Hunt Irrigation, in Lincoln, Neb., which he started more than 17 years ago. Hunt has since become entrenched in the various ways Green Industry contractors can promote efficient water use. In addition to being an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense Partner and an Irrigation Association (IA) Ambassador, Hunt is an avid supporter of the IA’s Smart Irrigation Month. Thanks to his efforts, the month of July will be recognized once again throughout Nebraska as Smart Irrigation Month.

“If you are going to work in an industry, it’s good to be a good steward in that industry,” says Hunt, whose company offers irrigation, backflow testing, snow removal and outdoor lighting services to 50 percent residential and 50 percent commercial clientele. “If we are going to use thousands of gallons of water, we need to do it responsibly to help the industry grow.”

Since 2005, the IA has promoted Smart Irrigation Month during July, the month with the highest water use in the U.S., to increase awareness of excessive water use and to grow demand for water-saving products, practices and services.

Smart Irrigation Month provides a unified marketing platform and is designed to educate the public about efficient water use and position participating companies as leaders in water stewardship. A few years ago, the IA went one step further and began encouraging irrigation industry professionals to apply to their cities or states for proclamations to get Smart Irrigation Month officially recognized and promoted on a governmental level.

Chad Forcey
Chad Forcey

“Our view is that when irrigation is done efficiently, it is part of improving our environment and ecosystems by using water to promote green infrastructures and to produce better lawns and landscapes,” says Chad Forcey, state affairs director for the IA. “The main goal is to promote the use of smart irrigation techniques and best management practices to individual consumers and policy makers as a solution to water shortages and droughts.”

Lowell Kaufhold
Lowell Kaufhold

The process of submitting a proclamation varies by state. In some, like Colorado, a Smart Irrigation Month supporter simply fills out and submits an online form. In other states, like Wyoming, there is no online tool, so the individual submitting the proclamation has to make phone calls to the appropriate state representatives, which can make the process a bit more difficult. Regardless of the means, the IA has a number of resources and staff available to assist people along the way (see sidebar). Proclamations need to be resubmitted each year, although once a state supports a proclamation, it’s easier to get a foot in the door the following year, says Lowell Kaufhold, chair of the IA’s Smart Irrigation Month Committee.

“We try to go out and get as many proclamations as we can because they lend a ton of credibility to the smart irrigation effort,” says Kaufhold, who is also president of CPS Distributors in Westminster, Colo. “The proclamation is really a springboard to help us focus on getting the word out about Smart Irrigation Month to contractors, homeowners and the industry in regard to being smarter with the water we have available.”

So far this year, the states of Louisiana, Colorado, Michigan, Indiana, Arizona, Idaho and Nebraska and the cities of Denver; Oklahoma City;Tulsa, Okla.; Carmel, Ind.; Crown Point, Ind.; and Denver County, Colo., have approved proclamations to make July Smart Irrigation Month for 2014. Kaufhold says the process has been initiated in about 20 other cities and states, including Delaware, Missouri and Oklahoma. Forcey compares the Smart Irrigation Month effort to that of holidays like Earth Day and Arbor Day, initiated by state proclamations and recognized each year as a day to pay special attention to the importance of improving and preserving the environment and its resources.

“When states emphasize smart irrigation to audiences of consumers and policy makers, they are highlighting our same goal—efficient use of water—around the country,” Forcey says. “Smart Irrigation Month is, we feel, the next step.”

Getting Involved

For contractors who are interested in obtaining Smart Irrigation Month proclamations in their states, the first step is figuring out the process, says Chad Forcey, state affairs director for the Irrigation Association (IA).

“Do you use the website, make a phone call, write a letter?” he says. “It’s not hard to have a proclamation declared, but you have to figure out what channels you have to go though in your state.”

The IA has information available under the “Resources” tab on its website (irrigation.org), including sample proclamations, prerecorded public service announcements, sample press releases and a “Smart Tips for Smart Irrigation Month” e-newsletter with ideas for participating in the campaign. Forcey says IA staff is also available to help guide contractors through the process.

“If you’re in a state and want to be a part of it and don’t know what’s going on, you’re encouraged to call the IA to get involved,” Forcey says. “Our members and their work with state governments are really making a difference.”

Historically, most people who submit proclamations are representatives from irrigation distributors or manufacturers, although more contractors, like Jeremy Hunt, are realizing the importance of getting involved. Hunt, owner of Hunt Irrigation in Lincoln, Neb., has been involved with smart irrigation practices on a governmental level since 2002, when he was invited to be part of a Water Task Force Committee assembled by the mayor of Lincoln to revise the city’s water use codes after a severe drought. In 2007, Hunt was part of a team that created a rain sensor ordinance that was adopted by Nebraska’s Lancaster County, which requires all plans for underground irrigation systems to include a rain sensor.

For the past few years, Hunt also has been integral in getting Smart Irrigation Month proclamations passed in Lincoln and the state of Nebraska. By dedicating 30 minutes a night for two to three weeks
corresponding with the right government officials, Hunt has been able to share and promote the importance of using water responsibly and efficiently throughout his industry and beyond.

“As Americans, we tend to be shortsighted and not remember what we did three days ago, so it doesn’t do the (Smart Irrigation Month) campaign or end-user awareness any good to not follow through,” Hunt says of his efforts. “I want to make sure every year that the city of Lincoln and the state of Nebraska make this proclamation.”


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