Tom Raden was ahead of most of us when it came to water management. In 1992 he started the company Innovative Irrigation Systems after managing landscape water for the University of California-Los Angeles. Raden is a proponent of smart controllers. He estimates he has influenced the sale of more than 4,000 smart controllers over the years.

Today, Raden works for Par 3 Landscape Management in Las Vegas. The fourth-generation landscape management business is the largest maintenance provider in southern Nevada offering a full range of landscape services to HOAs and businesses. The company’s philosophy is to create beautiful landscapes while also conserving the region’s most valuable resource – water.

Raden is establishing Par 3 Landscape Management as a dominating presence in water management in its market after implementing a program where customers willingly pay for water management services on a monthly basis.

Charging for water management services? Yes, you read that correctly.

Raden asks Par 3’s clients to commit to a three-year water management program. Three years is key because water savings build upon themselves as plants grow and mature via the proper management of their root zones.

Knowing your seasonal weather conditions is a good starting point for predicting landscape water use needs.

Premium and Premium Plus packages

With his firm’s Premium package, the first option, a water management fee is added to the client’s monthly maintenance fee. The controllers have to be smart controllers for the customer to participate in the program. Customers purchase the technology upfront.

A complete water analysis of past water use and careful examination of the property’s needs allows Par 3 to set the fee at approximately 20 percent of the estimated water savings. For example, if Par 3, after doing its analysis, believes it can save an HOA in Las Vegas $50,000 annually in water expenses, the water management fee to the customer will be $10,000 ($833 per month).

Now here is the best part: Par 3 Landscape Management guarantees the savings. If it doesn’t cover the water management fee in water savings, the company will cut the client a check back for its water management services. This is a risk-free option for customers.

The Platinum Plus package works well for customers needing to purchase smart controllers. It works just like the Premium package except Par 3 supplies the smart controllers and any other technology needed to manage water. The charge for this is 80 percent of the water savings. After three years, the customer owns the technology. Par 3 Landscape Management guarantees the savings and if the water savings don’t cover the management fee they will write a check back for the services. Also, customers qualifying for rebates from the water agency keep 100 percent of the rebates. This program provides a way for Par 3 to move clients to smart technology with little risk.

Measuring the distribution and amount of irrigation water reaching different parts of a landscape is vital to saving water and maintaining healthy plants.

Customers respond

Customer response has been excellent, says Raden. For customers who feel this might be too good to be true, Raden shares customer testimonials with them, including contact information. He emphasizes the program must be a win for clients in terms of healthy, attractive landscapes and significant water cost savings.

Raden says it takes a smart irrigation manager to maximize water savings with smart controllers, which are not set-it-and-forget-it technology. They need to be managed. They’re marvelous tools but ultimately their performance is largely dependent upon the person using them.

Today’s smart controllers contain sophisticated software giving water many options for water savings and maximum growth for plants. Even though they’re programmed to water according to root depths, soil types, plant type and sun or shade, most have over-ride functions — and for a good reason. They still need to be managed. Most contractors need time to learn how to properly program controllers.