Incorporating Green Infrastructure into Irrigation Systems

As an irrigation specialist, if you’re not already on the “green infrastructure bandwagon,” what’s holding you back?

The green infrastructure (or GI) movement is growing in communities throughout the U.S.  In its position statement, the national Irrigation Association has officially recognized GI as “a promising new market” for irrigation contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers.

(To access the Irrigation Association’s 2014 webinar titled “Green Infrastructure: The Role of Irrigation in Stormwater Management,” Click Here.)

What Is It, and Why Is It Important?

In a nutshell, green infrastructure utilizes living plant material to create a more natural method for stormwater mitigation. GI tools include vegetated swales, rain gardens, porous concrete, green roofs and rain barrel installations.  (See related article, “Rainwater Harvesting: Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!“)

Why is this an important topic for irrigation and landscape professionals?

Well, for one thing, in our current era of heightened water quality concerns, new state and federal investments are being aimed specifically at green infrastructure.

“The opportunity here is to be a resource for water quality managers and sustainability professionals.” That’s according to Paul Lander (Ph.d, ASLA, LEED AP), a consultant with Dakota Ridge Partners in Boulder, Colo.

“In almost every city across the nation, they’re going to have a whole suite of things on their plates. If there’s an opportunity (for irrigation professionals) to be seen as a resource, the profession’s going to go a lot further, and we’ll get more resources coming our way to help with this green infrastructure movement.”

It’s All About Runoff

The big issue, of course is stormwater runoff. Particularly with combined sewer systems, where the stormwater pipes connect to the sewage pipes. Combined sewer systems are found in approximately 860 municipalities across the U.S.. These are mostly concentrated in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes.

Not only is this a waste of stormwater, but the sewage treatment facilities are not designed to handle the large volume of water that occurs from a rain event. With as little as a 1/4 inch of rainwater, the combined systems will overflow the rainwater mixed with untreated sewerage into the local waterways.

You may recall when Ohio’s stormwater runoff issues became national news in 2014. That’s when the pollution in Lake Erie forced the City of Toledo to shut off its water supply. For three days.

Green infrastructure has been heralded as a more efficient and effective solution to these water pollution issues than traditional gray infrastructure.

For Municipalities and Neighborhoods

John  Farner, Government and Public Affairs Director for the Irrigation Association, recently explained that, at the municipal or county level, GI refers to the patchwork of natural areas that provide habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water for the community.  (See related article, “Can the Ohio River Be Saved?”)

With neighborhoods, on the other hand, GI refers to stormwater systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water. Many states and municipalities (such as Philadelphia) have adopted holistic approaches to watershed management that strongly feature green infrastructure. 

Unfortunately, landscape overwatering is commonplace, Lander said. And it’s the bane of water quality managers. These local, state and federal officials are tasked with ensuring compliance with regulations to minimize ill effects on water sources.

“Increasingly, nonpoint-source pollution, like irrigation runoff, is coming under scrutiny by these folks,” Lander said. Landscape and irrigation professionals who aren’t familiar with nonpoint-source pollution are behind the times, he added.

Opportunity Missed?

Not only that, but they’re missing out on a huge opportunity to partner with water quality managers in pursuit of GI projects.

“It’s all the little things around us that in aggregate can have a big impact,” Lander said. He believes the onus is on the professional irrigation community to step up and participate.

Why? “Sites need green infrastructure and green infrastructure will need smart irrigation,” he said.


Irrigation Association

Irrigation Market Watch

Rainwater Harvesting: Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!

With April upon us, we are reminded that every year Mother Nature provides us with trillions of gallons of water. Free of charge. In the form of rain.

Last year, for instance, the storms which pummeled the Carolinas dropped enough water to halt California’s five-year drought. And yet, few of us take advantage of learning how to capture this precious resource.

Instead, it flows off lawns into streams, then rivers, then oceans.

A recent article in Irrigation & Green Industry magazine suggests that, when irrigation specialists build cisterns to harvest rainwater, they are providing their customers with “manna from heaven.”

But they’re also helping to build the water infrastructure of the future. And providing themselves with an additional revenue source.

New Revenue Stream

Paul Lawrence, president of Texas Land & Water Designs LLC, has been installing rainwater harvesting systems for the past seven years, and he’s a huge proponent of the practice. Lawrence feels that, not only is it a good source of revenue, but startup costs are low for the contractor.

“Licensed irrigators already have many of the skills that are required for rainwater harvesting; it’s a real natural fit for them,” he says.

And it’s not as complicated as it might seem. Virtually every house and commercial building already possesses roofing, gutters and downspouts. The catchment system simply takes the rainwater that now flows down the street and stores it for use at a later date.

The Basic Setup

There are several different options for storing rainwater: above-ground storage tanks, below-ground cisterns, or downspouts directed to bioswales. Smaller systems (such as those that capture less than a hundred gallons) can use rain barrels for storage.

Whatever option is chosen, a pump may be required to release the water when it’s ready to be used. Most pumps on residential systems are between one-third and one horsepower. That amount of power is sufficient to pressurize the water for either spray or drip irrigation. The pump can be activated manually, or a controller can be used to automate the rainwater flow into the irrigation system.

A couple of important considerations:

  • Sanitation should be the first consideration. At the very least, a screen should be placed in the gutter over the downspout. This will keep out large particulate matter, large solids and leaves.
  • Storage tanks must be properly sealed against pests and bacteria; otherwise, the water inside can become toxic.

  • Every storage tank needs to have an overflow device to prevent backup in heavy-rain situations.
  • The overflow device should be fitted with a flapper valve that will close up immediately after excess water has stopped flowing out. This will keep vermin from crawling up the spout.

An Attractive Option

For property owners who find traditional storage units unattractive, more aesthetically-pleasing options are available. For instance, Aquascape, an Illinois-based company, offers its “RainXchange” system, which combines a recirculating, decorative water feature with an underground storage basin.

According to Irrigation & Green Industry magazine, RainXchange offers the same functionality of other storage systems. Specifically, “It makes use of modular storage basins, stackable blocks that are somewhere between milk crates and Legos, which can be arranged in different shapes to fit a variety of application settings. They sit inside a rubber membrane to form a single, water-tight unit underground.”

Contractors can install the RainXchange system under turf grass. An increasingly common option is to install the system beneath a patio made of permeable pavers. According to Ed Beaulieu, director of field research for Aquascape, “This way, the pavers act as a catchment area that prefilters the rainwater before it enters the blocks. It’s very, very efficient.”

The following video demonstrates the installation of a similar underground system by a Texas-based vendor, Innovative Water Solutions:


Closer to home, Rain Brothers, a rainwater-harvesting company based in Columbus, offers system design services throughout Ohio and much of the Midwest.

A simple residential project typically runs between $1,500 and $5,000, depending on a variety of factors, such as size and excavation costs. For instance, if a client’s property doesn’t allow room for heavy equipment, digging by hand will increase the labor time substantially.

Who Are the Target Customers?

According to most irrigation contractors, conservation is the primary motivator when property owners consider installing a rainwater catchment system. Despite the fact that the installation costs them money, these clients are more worried about the long-term consequences of water shortages, pollution and soil erosion.

They may have heard that capturing rainwater is a tried-and-true method of simultaneously controlling runoff and withstanding drought conditions.

“In a residential setting, it’s next to impossible to show an ROI in three to five years,” Lawrence says. “By and large, those clients are doing it for environmental concerns.”

Add It to Your Menu of Services

Rainwater harvesting is a viable permanent addition to the menu of services offered by landscape professionals. As homeowners rediscover this ancient practice of capturing rainwater, contractors will have increasing opportunities to offer their services for installation projects.

Contractors can easily acquire the skills necessary to get started with catchment system installations. And there is an abundance of resources to ensure your success. The national Irrigation Association offers online classes on the subject, such as “Water Quality of Alternative Water Sources” and “Earning Points for Green Projects.”

In addition, the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) hosts workshops across the country for those seeking to pass their accredited professional exam. The ARCSA also offers a Resource Guide of rain harvesting designers, educators and suppliers.

Once you’re up to speed on best practices, rainwater harvesting can become a highly profitable source of revenue for your company… and a valuable service for your customers.


Irrigation & Green Industry Magazine

Irrigation Association

Innovative Water Solutions

American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association

Don’t Miss Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day – February 22, 2017!


With approximately 30 new legislators being sworn in to the 132nd Ohio General Assembly and a new leadership slate in the Ohio House, participation in the 2017 Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day is more important than ever. Join your green industry colleagues on February 22 to impact legislation affecting green industries and carry the message of “who we are” to our state legislators.

Benefit of Membership

As one of the sponsors of this year’s Green Industry Advocacy Day, your Ohio Irrigation Association is counting on you. Legislative and regulatory advocacy is one of the key benefits of OIA membership. By becoming an active participant in legislative events, you strengthen this critical membership benefit. Advocacy Day is your chance to build relationships with two important groups:  Green industry business partners, and members of the Ohio legislature and their staff. And who can tell our story better than you?

In addition to the OIA, participating organizations will include:download

    • The Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association
    • Nursery Growers of Lake County Ohio
    • Ohio Landscape Association
    • Ohio Lawn Care Association
    • Ohio Pest Management Association
    • Ohio Professional Applicators for Responsible Regulation
    • Ohio Turfgrass Foundation

Issues at Hand

advocacyThe biennial operating budget bill will be “in play” in the Ohio House, which makes Advocacy Day the perfect time to affect change in this important legislation. In addition, issues like water quality and quantity, immigration, workers compensation and/or environmental reforms will be discussed. You can be a resource to policy makers on these key issues, helping them to make informed decisions.  They want to hear from you, and YOU have the knowledge that can help advance decisions that are favorable to our industry.

What to Expect

The morning session will feature key legislative speakers like ONLA Legislator of the Year Sen. Bob Peterson (R- Sabina); Craig Butler, Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; and others.  There will also be a briefing session where you will learn about specific bills and issues, and how best to communicate with your state legislators. Legislative meetings are then scheduled for the afternoon.

We’re Counting on YOU!

For more  information and to register for the event…
Eventbrite - Ohio Green Industry Advocacy Day

Or order below:

Don’t miss out on this important opportunity to partner with fellow green industry colleagues and to explain critical industry issues to our state legislators!



Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association

MGIX 2017, Ohio’s Premier Green Industry Trade Show, January 16-18



Midwest Green Industry Xperience (MGIX) 2017 (formerly known as CENTS) is scheduled for three full days, January 16 through 18, 2017, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The event will combine industry-leading education with an expanded trade show, offering a truly innovative green industry experience.

Trade Show

This year’s trade show will feature more than 400 exhibitors, offering a wide range of products and services, including nursery stock, hardscaping products, pest and disease control, landscaping equipment, business services and more. The show is expected to attract more than 6,000 attendees.

MGIXThe expanded trade show will also offer:

  • Garden Promenade and Garden Lounge
  • The latest innovations in the New Product Showcase
  • “Are You Smarter Than a Green Industry Pro?” trivia game in the Garden Lounge.

Back by Popular Demand

Available again this year will be the ever-popular ONLA Garage, offering hands-on training to teach your team how to correctly operate, utilize and maintain your precious equipment for optimal performance and longevity. dscf5109-e1478540194841(The ONLA Garage is included with the purchase of a trade show pass.)

Also back this year will be Climbers Corners. This live-stage event features expert educators demonstrating a variety of arboricultural techniques important to tree work professionals, landscape crews, managers and designers.


Educational sessions of particular interest to landscape and irrigation professionals will include:

  • MGIX“Integrated Pest Management in Lawns and Landscapes,” presented by Dave Shetlar, Professor of Urban Landscape Entomology, Ohio State University
  • “Sustainability Parts I, II and III,” presented by John DeVore, designer, landscape contractor and educator
  • “Landscaping for Climate Change,” presented by Kim Eierman, certified environmental horticulturist and master gardener
  • “The Landscape Sustainability Checklist,” presented by Stephen Foltz, Director of Horticulture, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
  • “Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Control,” presented by writer, consultant and educator Debra Knapke
  • “Planting from the Ground Up,” presented by Joe Boggs, Professor of Entomology, Ohio State University


In addition, the following pre-conference workshops will be offered on Sunday, January 15:

  • oipcworkshopjuly16c-400_2_origAnnual P.L.A.N.T. Seminar (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.),  presented each winter by the Perennial Plant Association in partnership with Ohio State University Master Gardener Volunteers.
  • Permeable Interlocking Concrete Pavement Specialist (PICPS) Course (8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.), designed to educate experienced contractors about the differences between installing PICP versus regular interlocking concrete pavement systems.
  • Landscape Business Bootcamp (9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.), tailored to business owners, managers, employees and all those seeking to improve their expertise in the industry. The curriculum is based on GreenMark’s 4 Cores of Landscape Business Success:  Guiding the business, running the business, getting the business , and doing the business.

To Learn More…

For more information, including the education schedule and special events, Click Here.

email_sig_mgix17To register for MGIX 2017, Click Here.

To reserve a booth, Click Here.



MGIX 2017 Planning Guide

Charge Up You Business ! ! ! Marty Grunder! Motivational Speaker at the Ohio Irrigation Contractor Reception

Marty Grunder ImagesBusiness Builder ! ! !

Motivational Speaker – Marty Grunder!

If you haven’t heard Marty speak here is your chance…

If you have heard Marty speak you will not want to miss out…

…and it’s FREE

5 PM  January 14, 2013- Room D142-143 in the Convention Center

(courtesy of our sponsors Hunter, Rain Bird & Toro)

Marty Grunder, one of the country’s best motivational speakers and green industry consultant, will be delivering a lively and exciting presentation at the Annual Ohio Irrigation Association’s Irrigation Contractor Reception on Monday, January 14th, 2013, 6:30 P.M. at Barley’s Brew House (across the street from the Columbus Convention Center).

Marty is the “go-to” expert for landscape contractors across the country and has helped hundreds of companies achieve success they only dreamed of.

Confluence of . . .

  • Marketing – you cannot achieve anything if your potential clients don’t know about you. Marty knows how to best reach your customers.
  • Motivation – business takes effort but Marty takes the effort out of business to make it fun. Like what you do and do what you love.
  • Management – Managers as leaders (true leaders) motivate others to success. Success is a marathon not a sprint and it takes leadership to succeed.

“I had a great time at your Grow 2010 seminar. I wanted you to know the seminar was the best by far of all the seminars that I have attended. Thank you for the regeneration of my enthusiasm. ”

– Len Dunaway, Green Velvet Sod Farms, Bellbrook, Ohio

Marty has shared his secrets to success with audiences across the country, inspiring them to reach their full potential while also providing his audiences with the kinds of practical advice businesses need in order to prosper. Among those Marty proudly counts as clients are Dow AgroSciences, DUCTZ International, PLANET, Lincoln National Financial Group, National City Bank and The Ohio State University.

Marty discovered his entrepreneurial spirit as a young man with a lawn mower and grew that passion into a multi-million-dollar company. Along that journey, his success story was amplified by The New York Times and acknowledged with numerous honors, including three “Entrepreneur of the Year” awards by various institutions.

He continues to serve as CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co. in Dayton, Ohio, employing and leading more than 40 individuals, but Marty’s true passion lies in working with other CEOs, organizational leaders, and business owners to help them drive results.

Unlike some speakers who speak from third party experience, Marty truly understands the confluence of Marketing, Motivation and Management. He has become the “go-to” expert to help hundreds of companies across North America inspire their leadership teams. Marty is a renowned speaker, business consultant, and author. His book, The Nine Simple Steps to Entrepreneurial Success, was named Business Book of the Year at the 2003 Independent Publisher Awards.

How can Marty help you? If you want to develop strong leaders, clarify strategic visions, and leverage resources to grow sales and market presence, you’ll benefit from his experience as a successful business owner and talented communicator.