World population is growing and more people are migrating to urban areas in search of employment. Climate change and increasing living standards are additional drivers for increased demand for water in urban areas. Every second the urban population grows by two people and 50% percent of the world’s population lives in cities of 10 million people or more. According to the Global Environmental Outlook water withdrawals are predicted to increase by 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries and 18 percent in developed countries. The EPA calculated nationwide landscape irrigation is accountable for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling more than 9 billion gallons per day. In the west and other sunny areas landscape water use accounts for over 50 percent of residential water use. As an industry we have a large target on our back for regulation to reduce water use. In California just a 20 percent reduction in landscape water use would be equivalent to reducing all toilet water use to zero. Managing water is an opportunity, but the window of opportunity may close quickly.
We have a choice
As an industry we have an opportunity to change the way we manage water. However, the opportunity to make the change is limited. I have heard more than one lawmaker explain a water shortage in the U.S. is a threat to homeland security. When I hear the words “threat to homeland security” I know we only have a limited time to act before the government takes control of the situation.
Technology is the answer
First we need to embrace the technology manufacturers provide for water management. I find only a small percentage of contractors recommend smart controllers to their customers. In most situations the fastest way to save water for customers is through the proper use of smart controllers. This is also true for growers in agricultural areas. There is field-monitoring technology today that reduces water use and increases yields in rural areas growing food to support urbanization.
Technology, design, and education for drip irrigation have improved dramatically in both urban and rural areas. Due to design, installation and technological innovation drip irrigation growth is expanding rapidly. Drip irrigation delivers water to the plants root zone and often requires half to a quarter of the volume of water required by comparable overhead-irrigation systems. Drip also improves the efficiency and reduces waste of fertilizer. When small increments of nutrients are delivered directly to the plant root zone nutrient losses are reduced because they don’t wash past the roots. Applying water to specific areas around plants helps reduce weeds from germinating nearby because they do not have the moisture necessary for growth. In addition drip irrigation systems combined with a smart controller are the most powerful one two punch for water management technology today.
Remember this is just a start. I have a strong desire to change the way we have been managing irrigation water and I need your help. Tweet me your thoughts @H2oTrends