Laws of the Land(scape)

Article excerpt

All politics are local. Consequently it is difficult to track the ever-evolving laws, torts, codes, statutes, ordinances, edicts, decrees, and regulations that affect the irrigation and landscaping industries in municipalities across the country. However, we can focus on the bigger picture: legislation that targets territory.

Some of us deal with these rules of conduct daily, while others only must observe under drought conditions. For irrigators in the U.S., there may be rules for conduct, including:

* even/odd watering days;

* incremental watering days;

* time-of-day watering;

* water budgeting;

* plant restrictions;

* automatic control systems;

* purple components for recycled water;

* rain sensors -- and more.

Whatever the case, legislation is generally intended to bring about order, and frankly, to protect "turf." Whether it's the landscape and irrigation industries wanting control over the installation of backflow preventers or a point of connection to potable supplies, or low-voltage lighting and other components, or municipalities and agencies protecting their vital interests in water through conservation measures.

"Water quality and availability are two issues constantly being addressed in legislation," asserts Tom Kimmell, executive director of the Irrigation Association. "Our concern is that when water supplies are strained, the rules might call for turning off irrigation systems. There should be a series of moderate steps that the landscape and irrigation industries can take before the water is turned oil Automatic irrigation should be part of the conservation solution, not part of the problem."

Adds Adam Skolnik, chair of the IA's legislative committee: "At a local level, we hear a lot about watering restrictions in water-short communities. Lawmakers generally focus on the landscape and turf industries first because they are so visible. We would like to position legislation locally to incentivize the adoption of water-conserving irrigation components and practices, rather than controlling the industry."

Skolnik adds that there appears to be activity in two areas: trade licensing, and actual water usage. "There are a few challenges between the plumbing and irrigation industries and the electrical and irrigation industries," he says. In addition, irrigation licensing and certification have surfaced in the Northeast.

Licensing and certification

TEXAS

Proponents of licensing and certification claim that it adds to the professionalism of the industry.

"Licensing also gives the consumer some sort of recourse if there's a complaint," says Carl Causey, executive director for the Texas Turf Irrigation Association.

Although TTIA has always supported licensing of irrigation professionals, it is the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) that oversees the process. Initiated in 1974, the Texas law, the first irrigation licensing and certification law in the country, requires that anyone who works in irrigation -- at any level -- holds an active license.

"Essentially, we were hostages to the plumbing industry," Causey states. "Installing irrigation requires a permit, and the plumbers were the only ones who could apply for the permit." In Texas, irrigators had to pay the plumbers to establish a point of connection to the potable water system.

"We had to have a plumber to install irrigation," Causey adds. The Texas program has licensed approximately 7,100 irrigators since the program's inception. There are currently 3,560 licenses active in the state. To take the exam for licensing, a prospect must attend 32 hours of basic training. Training courses are administered by the private sector as approved by the TNRCC. The exam is about nine hours long and there is a 50 percent pass rate. The exam can be taken more than once. …