Training to excel at water conservation

Irrigation and landscape professionals attend training in the Florida Water Star program

Irrigation and landscape professionals attend training in the Florida Water Star program to learn how to enhance with work with water savings.

Some Water Less heroes aren’t born; they’re trained.

The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Florida Water StarSM program has turned hundreds of landscape and irrigation professionals into accredited water conservation experts.

Florida Water Star is a water conservation certification program for new and existing homes and commercial developments. The program establishes standards for landscape design, irrigation systems and indoor fixtures and appliances.

As part of the Water Star program, the district also trains the professionals who design and install landscapes, called the Florida Water Star Accredited Professional (AP) program. The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) is partnered with the district on this training.

More than a dozen landscape and irrigation professionals — as well as a few homeowners — attended a recent Florida Water Star AP course held in Titusville. Nationally recognized irrigation expert Kurt Thomas led the students through part of the daylong course, explaining everything from proper use of irrigation zones to the benefits of using soil moisture sensors to aid in water efficiency.

“The district recognizes the need to help landscape industry professionals sharpen their knowledge and skills so that they can design more water-conserving landscapes and associated irrigation systems,” says district Water Conservation Coordinator Deirdre Irwin. “Our partners are the true heroes by stepping up to help us put together more than 50 workshops to date.”

One of the Titusville attendees, Diane Sappington, owns A Landscape Vision, a small landscape design company based in Orlando. Sappington lauded Water Star as a tool to help her meet her customers’ demand for artful landscaping without compromising water efficiency.

“If a client goes on vacation and falls in love with pink and white tropical blooms and shows photos of what they want, I can now find a similar flower that is drought-tolerant to create the look they want,” Sappington says. “Florida Water Star training is a good resource for both contractors and homeowners.”

Our partners are the true heroes by stepping up to help us put together more than 50 workshops to date.

Deirdre Irwin

Another attendee, Matt Blowers is on the Technical Advisory Committee for Florida Water Star and the Orange County Utilities conservation program manager.

“Our building codes require all turf grass to have irrigation,” Blowers says. “We’ve modified the Water Star program to fit our county’s needs, but we provide free water-conserving devices for new construction and retrofits that help homeowners become compliant.”

Since 2010, Florida Water Star has provided training to more than 1,000 landscape and irrigation professionals throughout the state with the help of FNGLA. Other program partners have included the Southwest and South Florida water management districts; Alachua and Broward counties, Tampa Bay Water, and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension offices in Palm Beach, Lake and Miami-Dade counties and most recently, the city of Titusville.

“Water quality and quantity are each a major focus of our industry,” says Merry Mott, FNGLA’s Director of Certifications and Career Development. “Water Star was a ready-made program for us. It was good timing and a good fit. After 10 years of partnering with St. Johns, the need for Water Star is stronger than ever.”