For many potential homeowners, purchasing a house that belongs to a homeowners’ association (HOA) is ideal. While extra fees come with joining such an organization, the association does take care of many of the stresses of owning a home, including consistent maintenance of landscaping around properties.
Many of these HOAs have recently been tackling the important issue of water conservation, especially those in states affected by drought. With new advancements in the fields of water management and irrigation emerging almost daily, knowing how to best handle the landscaping of a group of homes can be very confusing. Luckily for these associations, companies like Stillwater Landscape Management LLC exist to help.
Rick Robinson, the president of Stillwater, works solely with HOAs and educates clients on the evolving world of remote water management.
Beat the heat
As Robinson explains, Stillwater is a $10 million company that offers full-service landscape management and enhancement to the homeowners’ association market, including tree work and irrigation consulting. Stillwater’s clients have a particular need for smart and efficient remote water management options, and that is not just because they oversee a large amount of homes. The dry Phoenix, Arizona, heat has caused these HOAs to seek Stillwater’s services.
“Irrigation water management is a key component in landscape maintenance, particularly here in the Sonoran Desert,” Robinson explains. “HOAs have had a difficult time balancing their budgets due to increasing water rates and fees, and it is our job to use irrigation water efficiently. It is just as important to communicate with HOA managers and boards about water use and ways to improve efficient use.”
So it sounds easy enough: HOAs, especially those in hot areas, need to be smart and productive with irrigation, so they will happily use the tactics Stillwater suggests. Not exactly, unfortunately. Many of the recent upgrades to the irrigation industry, specifically the introduction of smart remote water management technology, still have yet to widely reach public knowledge. This lack of understanding is causing some hesitancy to adopt.
“HOAs have become ultra-sensitive to how much they spend on water,” Robinson says. “Many are continually comparing current use to historic use and require explanations of any deviation. Some maintenance companies in this area have lost contracts due to their inability or unwillingness to embrace and utilize the opportunity to aggressively manage irrigation water use. This absolutely requires installing and using remote management wherever possible.”
Stillwater is committed to giving the best, most personalized service to its customers. Along with offering a thorough consultation on the use of remote water management, the company continues to monitor its clients’ water management systems post-installation. They track client water use throughout the year so the HOAs will always know their return on investment. This step has become increasingly important as more of these associations adopt remote water management systems.
“When an HOA agrees to install controllers with remote management capabilities, we perform site surveys to properly program the controllers and get the system functional as part of the installation cost,” Robinson says. “Subsequent monitoring and programming become another component in our day-to-day service.”
Know the product
Professionals as well as homeowners need to be open to learning more about remote water management. Since water management tools have drastically changed, contractors need to study the differences in the products before approaching their customers. Stillwater has been successful in getting clients to convert to remote devices, and that is not just due to the Arizona climate.
“The main thing required is an attitude to want to learn how the different systems operate and the desire to offer the most professional service possible,” Robinson says. “Efficient and effective water management, whether on the client’s site or remote, is more a commitment of time than it is a list of equipment or procedures.”
Overall, Stillwater has been very open-minded and proactive when it comes to learning about and using the new products coming to market. Robinson says Stillwater is always exploring innovation in water management and irrigation.
“We are certainly using any product available to help us be better stewards of the irrigation water we use on the properties we are responsible for,” Robinson says. “Products sold more often today than several years ago include precision spray nozzles, flow sensors, moisture sensors, smart or advanced controllers, on-site ET sensors, etc.”
Understand the customer
Robinson is the first to admit, however, that operating out of the state of Arizona does make selling remote water management devices to HOAs easier than for those in colder climates such as the Midwest. Robinson and Stillwater have become authorities on remote water management because they go above and beyond simply selling device upgrades to HOAs. Just because all of their clients are located in Arizona does not mean they all need the same devices, and Stillwater takes the time to figure out which remote water management system is right for each individual customer.
“Remote water management sells itself as water rates continue to climb,” Robinson says. “The challenge is to find the best system for each property’s unique characteristics, i.e., the number of points of connection to the water supply, how many controllers per point of connection, is there a pump, is flow management part of the equation, etc.”
Stillwater has certainly found its niche in remote water management and HOAs, and the company of 140 employees continues to educate its clients every day.