Proper training for landscape and grounds staff is crucial to head off a rerun of this year's devastating effects of hosepipe bans, industry leaders told delegates at IoG Saltex earlier this month.
"Hosepipe restrictions stuffed everybody," said Association of Professional Landscapers chairman Mark Gregory. "We have to stop that happening again and the only way is through training - maybe e-learning or a two-hour module, it doesn't have to be to degree level. We have to prove we have our house in order and we can only do that with training."
He added that floods are just as dangerous as droughts and a bigger threat than pandemic flu outbreaks. But a training package could enable grounds staff to prove that their landscape or bowls green uses a specific amount of water in a responsible form of irrigation such as use of grey water or boreholes.
Gregory said Waterwise, which promotes efficient water use, is setting up a steering group to create training. This is intended to avoid the "cliff edge" that businesses faced in March when the utilities made a snap decision to ban hosepipe use, leading to delayed or cancelled jobs.
Former BALI chairman Paul Cowell spoke of the frustration for businesses caused by blanket bans and the "ignorance" of water companies for sending out different messages. But this acted as a catalyst for professional groups to unite.
"They want us to develop e-learning opportunities because we have end-user contact with homeowners," said Cowell. "We can do some of the water companies' work in transferring that knowledge and it would open up good information sharing between us and them."
Society of Garden Designers vice-chairwoman Juliet Sargeant said: "Water companies have education programmes but they know that our clients trust us more than the utilities to tell them how to look after their gardens, which gives us more opportunities to educate them."
Institute of Groundsmanship head of professional services Ian Lacy said the organisation was looking at launching training courses based on drought management and flooding based on good housekeeping because many members cannot afford expensive irrigation systems that deliver set water rates at set times.
Hugh Dampney, chairman, Turfgrass Growers Association
"Since temporary-use bans were introduced in March, we have been fighting the cause with fellow protagonists to get the water companies to realise that responsible water use is good and irresponsible use bad. But we were talking to seven different utility firms with seven different agendas and different rules for different places."