Why you should consider more than water savings when selling drip irrigation

Customers love hearing their water bills can be lowered, but there are other ways to sell drip irrigation.
John Amarosa
John Amarosa

Clients hate seeing their money go down the drain, and that is also true with water. In some states, water is a precious — and expensive — commodity. And more environmentally conscious customers hate to see waste, and that includes unnecessary overwatering.

Drip irrigation can be an easy sell to a client when the many benefits are discussed: water savings and healthy plants. But there are other benefits to consider, including eliminating the possibility of slips, or water damage to buildings or concrete.

Preventing accidents

John Amarosa is the chief operating officer of Pine Lake Nursery and Landscape in Tampa Bay, Fla. Pine Lake Nursery is the parent company of Pine Lake Services, a landscape maintenance company. The company also offers fertilizer applications, pest control, irrigation management and arbor repair, among other services.

Amarosa says the company frequently installs drip irrigation systems in plant beds. He believes it’s easier to maintain a healthy landscape with drip, and he thinks it’s better for the plants than overhead irrigation.

But that isn’t how he sells his customers on drip irrigation systems. He talks about how litigious society has become, with so many attorneys hollering into TV cameras for commercials or holding a sledgehammer next to their 1-800 number on a billboard. In this litigious day and age, drip irrigation is the safe play, he says.

“Let’s prevent accidents, let’s prevent lawsuits, let’s prevent injuries,” he says. “I see a lot of times with overhead irrigation especially, specifically around plant beds when they water more than the plant needs, you’re causing puddles. You’re causing standing water on sidewalks and concrete and hardscapes, and everybody’s lawsuit-happy. If you talk to your customers about preventing lawsuits and telling stories that you’ve actually been a part of, then it’s easy.”

Flood damage

Amarosa has been in commercial landscaping since 1985, working stints with ValleyCrest (now BrightView), ASI Landscape Management and Down to Earth along the way. In those years, he has witnessed some irrigation mishaps.

He’s seen several instances of overhead irrigation in shrubs either dry rot and break, or get broken by a trimmer, and the irrigation water shoots into the top of the building, flooding it. “This has happened to me multiple times and it’s a really easy story to tell clients, especially when we want them to get drip irrigation around the building.”

Hunter and Rain Bird are the two systems Pine Lake Services most frequently installs. Beyond liability, he also talks to his clients about saving money and how drip irrigation promotes healthier plants.

“We know it’s a lower volume of water, but we also have a lot of iron in the water here in Florida … there’s a lot of rust-staining on buildings, concrete or hardscapes (with overhead irrigation). You don’t get that with drip,” Amarosa says. “And it promotes healthier plants — not having the wet leaves, not having standing water, not overwatering. You can prevent weeds because you’re not watering all around.”

A cheaper water bill

Tommy Thornton is president of Southern Eco-Scapes in Macon, Ga. He started the business in 2008 and employs 25 people. The company offers maintenance, design, drainage and sod installation to its clientele.

Because of the heat and humidity in Georgia, Thornton says his company recommends drip irrigation systems to clients regularly, especially on large trees and shrub bed installations.

“The two biggest things would be water efficiency — it’s going to save them on their water bill, and it’s also going to be better for the plant because you can get a lot deeper, watering down to those tap roots,” Thornton says. “If they have an existing irrigation system, we’ll use (drip) as an upsell to help them save more water, and really get that deep watering as opposed to just using your spray heads and rotors, and just watering the top of the plants.”

Thornton says he is loyal to Hunter’s drip irrigation systems. He says it’s an easy install for him and his crew, and the customers are always happy with the end result.

“From the installation side, drip irrigation is a lot easier to put in than an extra pipe and a head,” he says. “And the customers always love seeing their water bill go down.”

Photo: Seth Jones

Seth Jones

Seth Jones is is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. A graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Seth was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. He has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories.

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