Educating and training community leaders to implement water recycling approach in Utah’s landscapes and nursery industry

Progress report for WPDP22-014

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $93,568.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G399-22-W9214
Grant Recipient: Utah State University
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Shital Poudyal
Utah State University
Dr. Kelly Kopp
Utah State University and CWEL
Candace Schaible
Utah State University Extension - Iron County
Katie Wagner, Ms.
Utah State University Extension
Josh Zimmerman, Mr.
Utah Department of Natural Resources
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Project Information


Lesser precipitation, increasing population and extreme drought is already impacting the nursery and landscape industry in Utah. Current uncertainties in water availability and strict water regulations demand nursery and landscape growers to look for alternative irrigation approaches. Capturing and reusing irrigation return flow as an alternative source of irrigation is common in many parts of the United States but is very unusual in Utah. Recycling irrigation return flow can increase the sustainability of the nursery and landscape industry in two major ways 1) reduce the amount of fresh water used for irrigation and 2) lower irrigation runoff to watershed areas hence reducing non-point source (agrochemical) pollution. There are numerous resources to incorporate a water recycling approach in nurseries, which were developed as an outcome of several research projects outside Utah. Those resources can be modified, customized, and outreached to Utah's landscape and nursery industry to incorporate a water recycling approach in Utah’s nursery and landscape industry. Through this project, we will train and educate state outreach personal from Utah State University Extension, Utah Department of Natural Resources (Utah- DNR), United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) and nursery and landscape growers on incorporating a water recycling approach in the landscape and nursery industry. In turn, those trainees will then go to their respective jurisdiction/territory to outreach their knowledge to persuade and promote water recycling approach in the nursery and landscape industry. It is highly likely that in near future, Utah will have harsher water regulations. If the footsteps of California and Arizona are followed, water recycling will be mandated in the nursery and landscape industry. Therefore, this project will also create and archive resources on water recycling and form a team of specialists to tackle water recycling questions and problems in Utah.

Figure 1

Project Objectives:

Detailed Objectives:

  1. Determine the barrier to adoption for retaining and recycling water in nursery and landscape industry.
  2. Educate extension personal, water professionals and lead growers on the importance of implementing water recycling systems in the nursery and landscape industry.
  3. Educate and train professionals in the nursery and landscape industry on implement successful water recycling systems.
  4. Empower agricultural and water professionals to disseminate information in communities across Utah.
  5. Establish a team of experts to tackle water recycling questions.

We will accomplish our objectives by conducing the following actions:

  1. Determining the barrier to adoption for retaining and recycling water in nursery and landscape industry through in-person and virtual meetings with landscape and nursery professionals, growers, county extension personals and home gardeners.
  2. Conducting participatory workshop, field demonstration and round table discussion of water recycling systems in a real nursery environment along with producing videos and instruction materials on how to integrate runoff recycling system in a nursery.
  3. Conducting webinars (10 in total) by inviting researchers and extension personals expert in their field on how to adopt water recycling and archiving complete information in a free and easily accessible online portal. The topics of webinars with expected speaker is provide in the timeline chart under method and timeline section.
  4. Developing fact sheets, short videos and journal articles on water recycling for ornamental crop production.
  5. Creating a GLOW (Growing Landscape plants and Ornamentals Wisely) team that will address the needs of Utahns and beyond on questions and concerns related to water recycling.
  6. Evaluating the willingness of stakeholders to adopt to water recycling before and after the project.

Our proposed grant is for two years with first and second year for project implementation and second year for project evaluation. Our investigators in Northern, Mid and Southern parts of Utah will first conduct an online or in-person survey using a pre-prepared questionnaire including both subjective and objective questions to understand nursery and landscape growers’ perceptions on recycling irrigation water, consequences of uncontrolled runoff and the barriers to the adoption of water recycling for irrigation. These surveys will help to determine the level of understanding and knowledge that the stakeholder has and will be used to modify or customize the program agenda to address actual needs of stakeholders. Surveys will be done at different locations by each investigator at various extension programs. We will then conduct three different hybrid-type demonstration/presentation/participation workshops. Each workshop will include participants from surrounding counties as listed in figure 2. Each workshop will be a two-day event. The first day will be an indoor participatory discussion session about how recycling water would fit to their growing practice, presentations on how water sustainability can be achieved in nursery production and finally an open-ended conversation on how materials from those presentation could benefit growers. The second day will be demonstration of pre-installed water recycling system in a nursery, explanation of how the system function and hand-on experience on troubleshooting problems in the. We anticipate around 25 participants for each workshop who will include nursery, landscape and greenhouse growers, members from nursery and landscape association, USDA-NRCS water conservationists, Utah DNR and cooperative extension personal. Globally renowned expert will be a keynote speaker for each workshop. We will have Dr. Sarah White, Dr. Damon Abdi and Dr. Jennifer Parke respectively for three different workshops.

Figure 2

Throughout the program duration we will cover all the topics related to water recycling (listed in the Ghant Chart below) in nursery and landscape industry via the webinar by the expert in respective fields.

Core team members will prepare fact sheets, online videos, journal articles and other resources during entire project cycle and will meet quarterly, to discuss progress and future ideas. By the end of this project, Dr. Poudyal, Ms. Schaible, Ms. Wagner and Mr. Zimmerman will form a perpetual core team call GLOW. They will be responsible for future correspondence with growers on topic related to water recycling even after project termination. 

Gantt Chart

Project Timeline - Ghent Chart



Educational approach:

We contacted multiple subject matter specialists and asked them to present at our monthly webinar. Below is the confirmation of our speaker for the next few months.

Title of webinars

Tentative month for webinars


Introductory meeting

January 19th 2023

1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Shital Poudyal

Viability of water recycling systems for the nursery and landscape industry

February 16th 2023

1:30-2:30 pm.

Dr. Sarah White

Cost and return on investment on construction of water recycling system in the nursery

March 14th 

12:30 pm to 1:30 pm

Dr. Robin Brumfield and Dr. Raul Cabrera

Agrochemicals in irrigation return flow (runoff water)


1:30-2:30 pm.

 Dr. Shital Poudyal

Plant pathogens in irrigation return flow and how to minimize the risk

May 18th, 2023

1:30 to 2:30 pm

Dr. Paul Fisher

Building effective irrigation return flow treatment system to remove agrochemicals

June 15th

1:30 to 2:30 pm

Dr. Damon Abdi


We also surveyed participants to determine the best time to conduct in-person demonstration workshop. And are working on scheduling it.

We conducted first introductory webinar for our project on January 19th, 2023. We had 69 online participants. Katie Wagner and Dr. Shital Poudyal led the webinar. They presented the project concepts, answered participants' questions and introduced about the upcoming webinar.

We also edited and uploaded the webinar on a youtube channel for participants that couldn't make it live to watch it at their schedule. Below is the link for our first webinar.

We are working on developing first few online articles and fact sheets.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

1. Determine the barrier to adoption for retaining and recycling water in the nursery and landscape industry

We conducted multiple online and one-on-one surveys among the participants of our program. We made a distinction between growers and non-grower participants for our data collection. Below is the synopsis of our survey:

Outcomes and impacts:

Following were the outcome sof the survey:

Lack of knowledge/training on cost and installation was the top barrier to recycle runoff water followed by the cost of installation

71 out of 73 participants who responded to the survey had no training in water recycling. 



Why do you think water retaining and recycling runoff water is important in nursery and landscape industry ?

(73 respondents)

Most of the respondents perceived the scarcity of freshwater for irrigation as the main reason for retaining and recycling runoff water. The second next reason was to lower water bills. 

22.5 % was the average confidence level of participants to install or provide guidance on installing water recycling system 

Out of 50 growers or growers-related respondents, only 7 growers recycled water and the reason for not recycling was the lack of expertise. 

Almost 2/3rd of growers were willing to implement water recycling. 


2. Educate extension personal, water professionals and lead growers on the importance of implementing water recycling systems

We conducted our first webinar and described the rationale for implementing water recycling systems in the nursery and landscape industry. However, this objective will be fulfilled in pieces throughout the project cycle.

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

7 Extension
8 Agency

Learning Outcomes

70 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Not available at this point, we just started the educational phase of the program.

42 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

Not available at this point, we just started the educational phase of the program.

Success stories:

Not available at this point, we just started the educational phase of the program.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.