Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to facilitate WaterNow Alliance’s first Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) training in Colorado with the City of Aspen. It was actually the first ever QWEL training in Colorado! QWEL is a water efficiency training for landscape professionals and a US EPA WaterSense labeled professional certification program for irrigation system audits. Over the course of 3 days, QWEL class participants learned applicable skills and knowledge about water-efficient design, management, and irrigation practices.

We’re pleased to announce that all 17 participants passed the QWEL certification exam to become Qualified Water Efficient Landscapers!

WaterNow has been a Professional Certifying Organization (PCO) for QWEL since 2015. We became involved with QWEL because reducing water wasted on outdoor landscaping is one of the most affordable, proactive and effective paths to increasing water security at the local level; and this requires an active and engaged cohort of landscape professionals capable of providing water efficient services to homes and businesses. Since approximately 50% of all residential water use is allocated to outdoor landscaping, adopting water efficient landscaping has significant water conservation potential.

The QWEL curriculum covers concepts like local landscape irrigation audits, water supply and rebate programs, low-water-use plant selection, soil amendments, irrigation system design and maintenance, and irrigation controllers and scheduling. The program was developed in 2008 in Northern California and is now offered in nine states.

The City of Aspen decided to offer QWEL trainings in connection with a pilot landscape ordinance adopted last year intended to promote efficient development and water use. This ordinance will require 3rd party certified irrigation system audits for new construction and some redevelopment. You can learn more about the landscape ordinance here.

Recognizing that the community had a limited number of local landscape professionals certified to offer irrigation audits, Aspen decided to host free QWEL trainings to industry professionals interested in providing this service and learning more about sustainable landscaping. Aspen received financial support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to conduct this first QWEL training.

The training was led by Chris Reamer, an experienced landscape contractor and QWEL educator from Sonoma. Participants represented the local landscaping industry in the Roaring Fork Valley, the City of Aspen’s water conservation and parks department staff, and other CO utility representatives interested in offering the QWEL training in their own communities. These students brought years of valuable experience to the training which enhanced the curriculum and the discussions. Students engaged in classroom presentations, activities, a hands-on irrigation audit field exercise, and a final exam.

This training was made possible because of the dedication and expertise of a number of local professionals. Logan Burba and Beorn Courtney with Element Water Consulting were instrumental in adopting the CA-focused curriculum for CO-specific water management practices. Christina Medved with Roaring Fork Conservancy instructed the class on local water supply and policy. Clay Kraus with Rachio, and Eric Schneider with Hunter Industries provided instruction on irrigation controllers and other cutting-edge technologies. And of course, Lee Ledesma and the City of Aspen who hosted and support this training every step of the way.

WaterNow works with organizations and water utilities to facilitate QWEL trainings and support program development. If you’re interested in bring QWEL to your community or would like to learn more about this program, please don’t hesitate to contact me ([email protected])

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