How to work with agencies/plants to bring in water, expectations, ROI or anticipated results.
Our Most Valuable Resource.
Living in California, there is no dispute that the cost of water will continue to increase as well as the use and availability will become more restrictive. Utilities take a large percentage of your association’s annual operating budget and water may be exclusively the most expensive item. Is there a way to realistically manage this expense for our boards when we have little to no control regarding cost increases? Yes, you can help lessen the short term and long-term financial impact. Let’s investigate some of the methods from the least costly to the most. Each level discussed will yield a different ROI (Rate On Investment) depending on the amount of the associations investment coupled with the availability of sources and options in your area.
$ Help your community soak up information and water like a sponge:
Look beyond the address of your association and have your community analyzed for what is literally under your feet. The location of your community will relate to the soil type, soil condition and formation. Work with your landscape vendor first and obtain a soil sample to have tested. Most of these tests are done at a very reasonable cost via local geology departments in our UC’s (University of California) or working with a private Geotechnical lab. Use the data from your soil analysis samples to work with your landscape contractor to fine-tune your water use by adding possible soil amendment and other landscape management methods for better water absorption. This information will help your landscaper ensure your community is using is an effective amount of water to meet the demands of your landscape requirement. California’s Costal Zones, Alpine and High Planes Desert have different soil compositions and not all soil has the same make up even if the plantings used in your landscape are the same.
$$ Systems Management:
How is your water being delivered to the site? The landscape irrigation system is an area that needs constant care and upkeep by skilled professionals. Let’s focus on the landscape irrigation. You can have the best irrigation system money can buy however it will not amount to much savings if the persons maintaining the system are not qualified or knowledgeable on how to use the systems. We have all become accustomed to learning about smart irrigation controllers that help reduce the amount of water used. By the way if you have not evaluated option to upgrade your irrigation system controllers it is a worthwhile financial exercise that should be researched. “Trust but verify” as President Regan said. Should you suspect your system is not used to its fullest potential then go right to the source and enlist the assistance of the manufacturer of the controller. Most manufacturers are eager to help and moreover may come to your site and help you and your landscaper diagnose any issues. Then continue to ensure the proper management of your system and have an irrigation review conducted by contacting your local water authority and or your local conservancy agency as a educational resource. An irrigation review may also include ideas on how to improve your delivery methods such as improved irrigation heads that put out less water while still meeting the needs of the landscape. These agencies provide you a detailed review and report along with recommendations on how to improve what you have currently in place. In most cases this information is available to the association at no charge because these agencies are supported by tax dollars. This information cupped with the guidance of a skilled landscape professional to make the changes to your irrigation system is an investment that will defiantly pay off.
$$$ Change the source of your irrigation water.
This last idea is completely dependent on the availability of Reclaimed Water in your area. Should it not be available in your area correspond with your state representatives and encourage them to help. Should reclaimed water be available in your area then encourage your boards to conduct a study using professionals on the “how’s” of the project. How are we going to do this? How long will it take? How much will we save? How much will it cost? First consult with your landscaper to understand the landscape pallet in your community and if converting to reclaimed water will have any effect on your landscape (don’t forget to use a soils analysis to help this part). Then understand and map the make up of your existing irrigation system. Work with your experts to specify what will need to be done to modify and convert your system for reclaimed water. The dissolved bio-solids in reclaimed water may cause premature deterioration of your landscape irrigation components and you need to be prepared for this cost. Managers, don’t go it alone! Find a reclaimed water conversion project management expert. This conversion process involves many governmental agencies and departments including department of environmental health. Next, contact your local water authority and request a map of the available reclaimed water lines near your community and share with your landscape professionals and project manager. Work with your professionals to assign a budget for the project. For most communities this will be a significant investment so compare the cost of this project with the projected savings in water. Evaluate the projected return on investment and how soon the community will realize the savings. Have your board consult with their experts, use a qualified and licensed experts to hone the specifications. Should your conversion go well, this investment will help your community save money on our most valuable resource.
Clint McClure CCAM AMS CMCA
President and CEO
MMI-McClure Management Inc.
We are still not done:
No Reclaimed water available and you don’t want to wait? There is another expensive option. Associations are made of real property. Real property ownership in the State of California contains different rights and interests. Consult with your association’s attorney and a local title company if the real property in your common area contains water rights and if you do can you drill for the water contained in the ground below. If you can drill, use the correct experts to understand the how’s and be sure to research what it takes to maintain a well and what options do you have should your well run low. Our rural associations are no stranger to this concept and it is one that may be worth the research if you association has the right to drill.