I am often been asked why I am active in the Irrigation Association and what the IA can do for a contractor. While I joined the IA many years ago, the reasons why I joined are still very relevant today
My earliest exposure to the IA was taking an education class. As a young contractor, my knowledge and experience with pumps was very limited, and I wanted to know more. I had attended several “education” sessions presented by manufacturers and distributors. But the little knowledge I obtained there just seemed to cloud my understanding. I received a flier from the IA announcing a comprehensive pump class that was going to be presented in my area. I signed up, and certainly was not disappointed. To this day, I credit that class with providing me with a sound, basic knowledge of how a pump works and the intricacies of incorporating one in an irrigation system.
Today the IA has a catalog of 20 education classes and 29 online education sessions encompassing a large variety of irrigation and business-related subjects. Being an IA member allows me to take advantage of special member pricing on all these classes for not only myself but also for my employees. Similar member discount pricing is offered for all IA certifications, publications and IA show registrations.
This past spring the IA unveiled a new Member Discount Program that provides special pricing and benefits from a variety of vendors. I was already doing business with several of these vendors and the IA Member Discount Program provided additional discounts and specials. The money I will save this year from participating in this program will more than cover the cost of my IA membership dues. What is really great about this discount program is the vendors that participate are companies that many irrigation contractors typically do business with. Companies like ADP, Aramark, Comcast Business, Constant Contact, WW Grainger, Sprint, Office Max and others. It’s a great program and you can find out more details at
Then there are the less tangible – the myriad regulators and code writers who are attempting to quietly change the irrigation industry. They are endeavoring to stipulate what water sources can be used for irrigation or, even worst, if irrigation is even allowed. They are deciding what the sprinkler head of the future may look like and the percentage of turf grass allowed in a landscape and much more. These efforts are often disguised as voluntary green codes and regulations but they become mandatory when adopted by states, municipalities, school districts and others. These include LEED, ICC, IAPMO, WaterSense, UPC, NSPC and Sustainable Sites Initiative, just to name a few.
I too thought that these would have little impact on my business. Then a little over a year ago, I was visiting with the facilities manager at a major university we do business with. I was suggesting some upgrades to one of their irrigation systems when the facilities manager informed, referencing one of these codes, that the university was not going to approve an irrigation upgrade, that they had recently adopted a new policy where the landscapes on all new buildings would be designed to be sustainable without irrigation. In essence, the university’s new irrigation policy was now the best irrigation is no irrigation.
The Irrigation Association has three full-time staff members who dedicate all their efforts toward influencing these codes and regulations. Like it or not, codes and regulations are in all our futures, even on Long Island. The Irrigation Association wants a seat at the table. It wants to be part of the solution but it wants codes and regulations to be based on sound science, not emotion. It is the only voice representing the irrigation industry at these forums and it has been very successful in influencing policy makers. From my perspective, that alone is reason enough to support the IA by being a member
The IA also works with state and regional associations on local issues. We have and will continue to work and support the IANY effort to enact a state certification program in New York. This past year the IA assisted state affiliates with local issues in Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Oregon, to name a few. These efforts are largely supported by IA membership dues income.
And then there is the networking; the friends and acquaintances I have made through my involvement in the IA. Fellow contractors I have met from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, Nebraska, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, British Columbia and New Zealand, just to name a few. These relationships and what I have learned from my fellow contractors have honed every aspect of my business. They are, in essence, a large reason for my company’s success. These contacts and relationship would not have occurred if it were not for my involvement in the IA and my attendance at IA shows and contractor special events.
As with so many things in life, how much you get out or benefit from something depends on how much you are willing to put in or get involved. If you are not yet a member, join the Irrigation Association and become involved. As an IANY member, you qualify for an Affiliate Contractor Membership. That is a $110 savings off regular contractor membership dues.
Why not join today? I am confident you will be happy you did.
Robert D. Dobson, CID, CIC, is president of Middletown Sprinkler Company in New Jersey and president of the national Irrigation Association.