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Landscape industry feeling effects of prolonged drought

Persistent drought conditions in the western United States are impacting landscape-related businesses, a Colorado State University study reports.

Close to 2,000 landscaping jobs in Colorado were lost between 2002 and 2003. The jobs include landscape architects, landscape contractors, nurseries, garden centers and commercial florists. Total revenue dropped by almost $60 million last year, study author Dawn Thilmany said.

On the other hand, the industry has grown substantially since 1994, adding 11,000 jobs for a total of close to 34,000. Drought-related declines have been limited by landscape-related businesses expanding winter work such as snow removal and Christmas tree sales, the report concludes.

The "green sectors" showing the most growth from 1993 through 2001 "were landscape design and maintenance, public and private golf courses and nursery/garden centers." Florists and tree and nursery production reported "flatter" sales. Landscape architecture firms "lost sales" in 2003, the report noted.

Some businesses are weathering the dry conditions by specializing in drought-tolerant plants and artificial turf.

"Customers as well as our industry have really tried to adjust," Beth Zwinak of Tagawa Nursery in Aurora, Co. told the Associated Press. "I think it's probably hurt parts of our industry more than others. When there (are) lawn planting or sod bans, that (is) devastating."

Rules implemented by the Southern Nevada Water Authority are now limiting landscape options in the Las Vegas area. The agency has banned sod in new residential front yards and limited lawns in back yards to 50 percent of the total area. It is also offering a $1 per square foot incentive for homeowners to remove their front lawns.

Rainfall is expected to stay below average this winter in the western U.S., according to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska.

Marco Montague with Cutler Landscaping buries an irrigation line in the yard of a customer. Landscapers are educating their customers on the need to save water. Photo: Chris Richards / Arizona Daily Star

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October 13, 2019, 6:52 pm PDT

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