Drought conditions are nothing to joke about. All across the country, but most importantly in the southwest, legislation regarding water conservation gets more serious by the day. Garden centers, nurseries, home builders, architects and contractors are responding by increasing the educational awareness about the different varieties of residential landscape techniques, which can be beautiful as well as water-wise.

Corpus Christi, Texas offers plentiful resources designed to educate citizens how to implement water-smart garden designs. In San Antonio, homeowners are taking advantage of rebates in exchange for installing approved water-saving landscapes. Nevada is another state taking its water conservation plans very seriously. Southern Nevada is entering its fourth year of the worst drought on record. According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Water Smart Landscapes program available to homeowners and commercial property owners has more than doubled its incentives. Homeowners previously receiving .40¢ per square foot for grass that’s replaced with water-saving “xeriscape,” can now receive a $1.00 per square foot; up to $50,000! Commercial property owners can earn up to $300,000 for giving up grass in exchange for water-saving landscape.

Xeriscape™, an often-misunderstood term trademarked by the Denver Water Utilities, is the implementation of drought resistant plants and flowers with that require minimal water use. Nevada landscape expert Brent Scott is on top of its water-saving strategies. One of his clients had an irrigation system that emitted water twice a day. “We installed 3000 square feet of xeriscape for the customer which eliminated the need for irrigating. They were used to paying over $120 a month for water. Now they pay about $20 to $25 a month, and that was from June and July readings,” said Scott. “As another alternative, we also install synthetic turf and it’s just a given that those customers, too, save water.”

On the other hand, xeriscape is not 100% functional when homeowners want backyards for “normal” play and activities. Sod or turf of some kind is and always will be needed for those who entertain in their backyards. After all, a good game of volleyball would be difficult to play on 100% xeriscape. For this reason, many landscape professionals have found that by adding synthetic turf applications to their list of products and services, they too, are taking strides towards smart landscaping, smart water management, and practical backyard functionality. Good news! In water-police patrolled El Paso, folks can have a luscious green yard without the risk of citations, and still be eligible for water-wise rebates. That is because under the El Paso Water Utilities Turf Replacement Program, homeowners who have permeable synthetic turf lawns, can qualify for rebates. And, those lawns stay green all year. Anai Padilla, Water Conservation Manager for El Paso Water Utilities, is proud of how water-wise her town has become, “We’ve done a good job at getting residential water use down in El Paso. It’s partly due to homeowners like the resident who replaced 2262 square feet of his yard with artificial turf.” Synthetic turf is yet another product that landscape professionals can add to their product offerings in efforts to build water-cautious landscapes.

Colorado landscape expert William Story couldn’t agree more with such water-wise practices, “We all need to become better water managers. We have to adapt to what we have to work with and be smart with what resources we have. If we don’t, we will be in big trouble. Adding xeriscape and synthetic turf to existing landscape is a great step towards smart landscaping, smart water management and smart business.”

Jeff Dungan, Landscape Operations Manager for All State Landscaping in Salt Lake City, Utah, employs a program that calculates how much water homeowners can save by installing a combination of synthetic turf and xeriscape. “We install synthetic turf putting greens as an add-on service. A homeowner with a 10,000 square foot yard would have to install a rather large 1,500 square foot putting green to save about 30% off his or her water bill. However, when we combine a mix of xeriscape and synthetic turf, the savings shoot up to 70%!” said Dungan. As a water-saving landscape alternative, synthetic turf is in its infancy stage of popularity. However, more and more landscape professionals are implementing this non-traditional, yet water-wise, landscape technique.

Now, if landscape professionals take these synthetic turf applications one-step further by installing them as professional synthetic putting greens, they will become “niche-service” gurus. And given that golf and golf travel has evolved into a $50 billion a year industry, wise landscape professionals will slice into their share of this business. Golf fanatics love to have outdoor lighting installed for their late-night putting contests, as well as sand traps, tee boxes, retaining walls, pavers, water features, landscaping etc. The sales opportunities are endless. Niche services, such as putting green installations, will not only help residents become smarter water managers, they also give a company a unique advantage over its competition. This is especially helpful when companies must compete on price for similar services. Even Landscape Management Magazine voted synthetic putting greens the #1 niche service idea of the year. Obviously, a company with a niche service has a greater chance of increasing its revenues and market share. But the yields that putting green services provide are more than attractive. Profits can run as high as 60% to 70%. For the homeowner who doesn’t already have a water-cautious landscape design, he becomes the perfect target at which landscape pros can aim their full array of products and services.

Over 250,000 homeowners across the nation already know this and have backyard putting greens according to the Wall Street Journal. We feel that these figures are just beginning; it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Whether these homeowners or golf enthusiasts know it or not, they have become smart water managers. But more importantly, they have their own 24-hour putting and chipping, maintenance free, practice facilities right in the comfort and privacy of their own backyards. Besides, ask any knowledgeable golfer and he’ll say that the game of golf is won or lost on the putting green. Anyone can shoot long on the driving range, but putting is the key. How’s that for a sales pitch? These simple backyard additions are proven to increase property value and build equity into the home, which helps secure the home’s future value. Another great sales pitch too, by the way.

Some companies may already have enough business to last them throughout the year. However, in states where the droughts are persistent and the game of golf steadily increases in popularity, the advantages awaiting a savvy landscape company are stronger than ever. Who will be the next wise landscape pro that outshines his competition by providing water-cautious landscapes that are attractive, functional, and improves golfers’ handicaps?