By Kathleen Ferris
A recent article in “Environmental Leader” magazine cited a study that called water conservation “low-hanging fruit” often ignored by property managers looking to save money. Many Valley cities offer businesses free water audits to help them save water and money. Many cities also offer cash incentives and rebates if businesses make their landscaping more water efficient. Here are tips from property managers who took advantage of their cities’ programs.
- If you are a plant operations manager, make sure your landscaping maintenance contractor is at the table when creating a water-saving plan.
The plant manager for Banner Thunderbird Medical Center invited the hospital’s groundskeeper to his meeting with Glendale’s water conservation specialists. During the meeting he made a discovery: The groundskeeper reseeded the hospital’s lawn with winter grass every fall, set the watering schedule to get the grass started, and never changed the water timer again for the next three or four months. The hospital continued to saturate the mature grass as if it were newly planted seed. The city water-conservation specialists gave the plant manager a tool called a soil probe to measure the moisture in the soil every week and now the groundskeeper adjusts the water timer according to need. Regularly adjusting the timer, using more efficient sprinkler heads and converting to a drip watering system to prevent watering the sidewalk keeps the hospital’s landscape green and will save $13,000 on this year’s water bill.
- If you own commercial property and want to replace grass with desert landscaping, don’t settle for the price offered by your current landscaping contractor.
Some landscape companies specialize in maintenance, while others specialize in installation. Mesa’s Paragon Center is a 76,000-square-foot commercial complex that houses a small manufacturer, a Sear’s outlet, a floral wholesaler, a gym and private offices. Last year, Mesa gave its owner $5,000 to help convert 25,000-square-feet of grass to gravel, lantana, sage and agave. The complex’s regular landscape maintenance company estimated the project would cost up to $40,000. After shopping around, the property owner found a landscaping company with more installation experience that charged her $20,000. That means Mesa picked up 25 percent of the bill. Mesa’s non-residential rebate program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
- If you manage apartments, take the opportunity to network with your cities.
Once a month Glendale apartment managers are invited to meet with the city’s police. It was at one of these meetings that the manager of the 164-unit Ridgepoint Apartments learned the city provided a water-bill rebate to businesses that convert from grass to low-water-use desert landscaping. That knowledge led to solving a couple of messy problems for the apartment complex. First, Ridgepoint’s monthly water bills were split among the renters and varied each month. That made it difficult for renters to budget. The second problem was four sad-looking Ficus trees that sat in muddy, over-watered basins. The property manager called in Glendale’s water-conservation specialists, who walked the property and met with the landscapers. In place of the trees and grass, the apartment manager installed desert landscaping in a 1,000-square-feet area. Ridgepoint qualified for a $1,700 rebate from the city. The manager plans to replace another 1,000-square-feet of grass with water-efficient landscaping next year. The rebate and other recommendations provided by the city helped Ridgepoint move to a flat monthly water fee for renters.
For 45 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.