In most cases, I support the concept of removing turf to promote water conservation message, but on two different occasions, I watched landscape professionals present turf removal in a way that made me want to go home and plant turf. The problem was the delivery, not the message. They were dictating to the audience what to do. No one likes to be told what to do. It communicates mistrust, or an attempt to control. It interrupts your ability to make a choice. It becomes following an order instead of your decision to make. It’s condescending especially coming from someone else in your industry.
Water Conservation Message: Looking Outside Our Industry
Is it time to stop lecturing the green industry about water use? I am impressed with the number of people in the green industry who have stepped forward to reduce water use in landscapes. They have made a difference. However, there are plenty of people outside the sector pointing a finger at all of us for our water waste too while we stand by and lecture our industry also.
Recently listening to a presentation on vertebrate pests in the garden the audience was told by the presenter “I am here to help you with your pest problems. You can email or call for help, but don’t email me for help with rodents if you are feeding birds on your property.” That was an aha moment, and other behavior was contributing to the problem too. Clean up all the bad habits if you want to help with one bad habit is the message from this presenter. Would any of us be brave enough to respond to a request for help with water waste in the garden with “don’t ask me for help if you are eating meat more than four times a week or drinking more than seven beers a week?” It’s time to be responsible for our actions, but we are not going to do it alone. We are going to need help from other industries as well, and it might be time to start asking.
Performance-Based vs Prescription Based Water Management
Keeping with the theme of not telling people what to do, consider for a moment making them responsible for a water use reduction. Provide a target to hit and let them figure it out. They can decide if they want to use drip irrigation, smart controllers or pull out their lawn. Maybe a little of all three or one of the many other ways to save water in your landscape. I don’t think that’s too tall an order. Today, new disruptions hit, and capabilities change at a dizzying pace. Figure-it-out jobs are popping up across the country and employees are responding favorably. It’s time to take this approach to water management and measure the results.
So how do I say this without lecturing? It’s really up to you to decide what is best for your property or customers’ landscapes. It’s a big responsibility, and I know our industry is up for the job. Let’s hope other sectors are ready to do their part and together we can make a positive difference for water conservation.