At the recent GIE+Expo, Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Institute (OPEI), warned about “drought shaming” and the “demonization” of lawns, referring to an Oct. 21 Wall Street Journal article.
He says drought-stricken California leads the charge and a state website provides more details: “Governor Brown issued an Executive Order on April 1, 2015 that directed the implementation of specific actions to reduce potable water use in the urban sector. Directive number three declared that 50 million square feet of turf be replaced with drought-tolerant landscapes.”
Responsible use of water is the right thing to do, Kiser says, but that doesn’t mean lawns need to be removed. Instead, the right choice of grasses to match the climate is the better option. And, artificial turf is definitely not the answer — an option that provides zero habitat and water retention.
Kiser says landscapers — and dealers — need to be proactive across the country in terms of educating their markets about the benefits of responsible turf management. This seems especially urgent in light of recent NASA studies about “megadroughts” in the makings in the Southwest and Plains states. Here is an explanation from a recent CNN story: "Natural droughts like the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest have historically lasted maybe a decade or a little less," said Ben Cook, climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City, and lead author of the study. "What these results are saying is we're going to get a drought similar to those events, but it is probably going to last at least 30-35 years."
This discussion might be in the realm of scientists now. However, many of you know what just one dry summer meant for your dealership. And droughts aren’t just a summer issue, but mean less snowfall as well — and the subsequent declines in the sales of snow removal equipment. You can’t fight Mother Nature, but you can prepare your dealership. First, pay attention to what elected officials and government agencies are saying and legislating that directly impact your revenue. Watch California, Kiser says, because it’s an early warning system for what could be ahead for the rest of the U.S.
The upcoming offseason is a good time to start tuning into some of these issues. Ask your manufacturers how they’re monitoring the discussion. Weave some messages into your advertising and sales messages about responsible landscaping and fuel-efficient equipment.
Second, as you’re developing succession plans and long-term business plans, consider adding in extreme weather and how your dealership might adapt. For instance, brainstorm on how your dealership could stay in business if an entire generation of owners faced drought conditions — and potential regulations and policies that impact landscape practices.
Sometimes, the hypothetical scenario is much more real than we think.