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Landscapers Lobby for More Water

Even when water remains in the system, local restrictions are shutting off the flow across the Southeast. One business owner reports laying off a third of his staff because of the no-irrigation rules.

Water restrictions are severely impacting landscaping operations across the Southeast, forcing contractors and others to organize in defense of their industry. At stake are more than newly-planted lawns, but jobs, mortgages, businesses and families.


Don Curtis, owner of North Carolina-based SuperSod, which supplies turf to homeowners and landscapers, has been lobbying for the restrictions on landscapers to be loosened. He said the industry has been unfairly singled out because of its visibility, but that in reality, it uses water responsibly and helps protect water resources by reducing runoff.

"When you say no more watering of lawns, it's far more reaching than just those words because you can't water your landscaping; that means you can't do any more projects, which means nothing's going to protect the tributaries," he said. "I've laid off three people from my company, one-third of my staff. I know several landscapers who have had to close their doors or lay off as many as six to eight people."

Watering is crucial for landscaping, especially when establishing a new lawn or planting bed, but Curtis said landscapers know how to use water responsibly. Homeowners who overwater have a more detrimental impact, he argued. Overwatering actually weakens lawns, while stressing the lawn, by letting it dry out between waterings, forces the development of a deeper root system that is more disease resistant and winter-hardy.

Jobs on Line

Several local landscapers have felt the impact but have been able to find ways to keep working despite the restrictions. Blair Walton, operations manager for Landscapes Unique, said irrigation systems are an essential part of the business. "We install an irrigation system on every project that we do, or we wouldn't be able to guarantee the plants or even recommend doing the work, because water is essential to the growth of sod and plantings, especially when they're first getting established," he said.

Fortunately, many of the company's customers are able to use wells for irrigation. Also, he said, "Most of our planting beds are drip irrigation, which is still allowed under the water restrictions."

Mike Carter, owner of Wrightsville Beach Landscaping, said the biggest impact will come in the 2008 growing season if the dry conditions don't improve. "Because of the time of year, it mostly affected us in our annual flower installations last fall; we had to go out and hand water, where normally we would just be running irrigation systems," he said. "That was the biggest effect we've had so far because the restrictions were put in place toward the end of the growing season."

The company has also continued to work on projects outside of New Hanover County, where there are no water restrictions in effect.

Hardscapes Help

Another landscaping firm, Green Side Up! of Wilmington, N.C. has seen customers holding off on landscaping projects because of concerns about the drought and the restrictions. "Between the building moratorium and the water restrictions, it's been an uphill battle," said owner Jason Steveson.

The company has persevered thanks to diversification -- it has continued to install hardscapes, such as patios and pavers.

Source: Lumina News (Wrightsville, N.C.)

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May 24, 2019, 6:59 pm PDT

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