June 15, 2010
Smart Watering Systems in forefront of irrigation industry’s innovations
Chris Le Conte of Smart Watering Systems demonstrates harvesting rainwater within attractive landscape.
In just three short years, Chris Le Conte has taken his company, Smart Watering Systems of Brampton, from a concept to an award-winning and highly respected and profitable enterprise.

He came into the industry in 2005, working for Vanden Bussche Irrigation. Although he graduated from university with a business degree, Le Conte says, “I always had an interest in water and a solid understanding of the technical workings of products.” It wasn’t long before he saw that the issue of conservation was an inevitable future for the irrigation industry.

“My company helps our clients properly manage the use of water,” says Le Conte. “If we are going to use drinking water on our lawns, we had better do it efficiently.” This year Smart Watering Systems received the City of Toronto Green Award. An extensive audit of the irrigation system was ordered at a condominium property in Toronto. The outcome was that a new system was created and installed by Smart Watering Systems. This resulted in potable landscape water use dropping more than 75 per cent, and irrigation run-off was eliminated. The city’s website cites the project, stating, “By sharing their success and knowledge with others, 10 other properties have since adopted similar initiatives.”

Smart Watering Systems now has a staff of five, with a new office just opening in Vancouver. Le Conte says, “Everyone thinks that Vancouver is farther ahead in its overall conservation and environmental concern, but I have found that the city has a cavalier attitude toward water consumption, because they have so much of it.” He sees the city as a place that will provide real opportunity to educate the industry and consumers on the new technology and systems that reduce water consumption.

Another trend that Le Conte sees is the focus on outdoor water use. “Over the past two years government agencies have focused on interior reduction of water use, with things like low-flush toilets. Now they are examining how the use of water in landscape irrigation can be cut back.

One major area is rainwater harvesting. Le Conte sees huge potential here for the industry. He feels that expensive drinking water can be conserved by harvesting rain that falls from the sky. “It makes no sense to use the water we drink to irrigate landscapes.” Smart Watering Systems designs and installs rainwater harvesting systems to capture storm water run-off, reduce water costs and reduce potable water usage.

Le Conte has installed systems that capture rainfall from both his home and his neighbour’s. His water retention system in the back yard adds both beauty and function (see cover of magazine). The water retention system is also beneficial for the plants in the garden, providing a warm temperature and nutrients for the plants, without the chemicals in city water.   

Education on the new products and the systems are other important for Le Conte. He is an active member on several water industry boards, including the Ontario Waterworks Association’s (OWWA) Water Efficiency Committee, The Canadian Water Works Association (CWWA), serving on the National Water Efficiency Committee, vice-chair of Landscape Ontario’s Environmental Stewardship Sector Group and chair of the Irrigation Sector Group.

It is estimated that in another three to five years, politicians will begin to enact regulations to govern the irrigation industry. Le Conte says that right now government officials are on fact finding missions. He reflects on a statement from LO’s executive director Tony DiGiovanni during the special meeting in Halton Region regarding water use. “We need to work together to influence decisions made by politicians that will have an impact on our industry,” says Le Conte. He wants to see the industry demonstrate the realistic methods to reduce water use, while maintaining proper standards. “We can’t wait until it becomes a flashpoint, and decisions are made through emotion, instead of reality,” says Le Conte.

With Chris Le Conte leading the charge, those in the irrigation industry can be assured their voice will be heard.

Editor’s note: See June Landscape Trades for a comprehensive article written by Chris Le Conte on the business opportunities on water harvesting technology.