Reader Profile: Judith Benson

Sept. 12, 2015

Water, says Judith Benson, “may likely be the one true element of this world that we are unable to thrive without, and, possibly, the least understood and respected by our society.” Benson’s goal is to see that water continues to provide its beneficial uses through conservation efforts. She does that through three primary avenues.

First, she is president of the Florida-based Clear Water Products & Services Inc. (Clear Water PSI), which focuses on consulting and construction activities and specializes in the assessment, water management, irrigation, and landscape renovation of mature residential and commercial properties.

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Second, in 2011 she started the not-for-profit FL-WET to provide unbiased information for the public, contractors, utilities and government agencies to raise the bar for water efficiency knowledge and practices. Smart irrigation is one issue Benson focuses on. While the technology is well-known and supported by contractors and utilities elsewhere in the country, that’s not generally the case in Florida, she notes. She also teaches about how construction impacts watersheds as well as how water is conveyed. “You cannot function in society without our water purveyors,” says Benson. “Without water, you don’t have an economy. I have high regard for how they provide for the general public.” She also directs educational efforts for utilities that are tasked with both providing and conserving water. FL-WET offers national certifications such as the Irrigation Association’s Certified Irrigation Contractor and Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper. Contractors and water consumers have told Benson they desire more product-based information devoid of sales pitches. “They said, ‘You’re good at what you do, please keep doing it. Without those comments and the confidence they gave me, I would never have done it.”

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Third, Benson also serves as an elected volunteer for the Seminole Soil and Water Conservation District. She endeavors to establish educational opportunities for schools, works with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in assisting nurseries and small farms in increasing revenues while managing natural resources, and aims for improved communications among county commissioners, local utilities, and the public on water and land use.

What She Does Day to Day
Benson’s three major activities often consume 14–18 hours daily. She spearheads project direction with her Clear Water PSI staff and credits her team for being self-sufficient and requiring minimal supervision. Florida-WET work entails producing marketing materials and writing or giving presentations. Seminole Soil and Water Conservation District tasks round out her time. Benson is also a Florida Water Star technical advisory committee member. She teaches courses on water conservation and smart irrigation she’s created for Forester University, which are available on demand at Benson is an Irrigation Association instructor. She also is a program certifier for EPA’s WaterSense.

What Led Her to This Line of Work
Benson was looking for work after the US economy took a dip in the early 1980s. She had a B.A. in business from Kings College in North Carolina. Her father advised her to find a job providing a needed service regardless of the economy’s status. She went into industrial sales for a fluid handling market and realized in speaking with engineers that water was a common link in so many aspects of life. Her subsequent endeavors focused on water efficiency.

What She Likes Best About Her Job
“My greatest sense of satisfaction comes from others,” says Benson. “It’s the feedback that I get from those who say ‘we need you to do this. We appreciate what you’re doing and we would like to see more’. That fuels me,” says Benson. “The satisfaction doesn’t come from within. It comes from others.” The recognition for her work also has come in the form of many honors, including being named an EPA WaterSense Irrigation Partner of the Year in 2010.

Her Greatest Challenge “Clearly communicating to others that we are trying to be part of the solution and are not out there trying to create issues” is Benson’s biggest challenge, she says. “We have no hidden agenda. We’re just trying to clarify our goals for the local community.” Family and friends have noted that Benson is a ‘doer’. She concurs, wanting all of her efforts to lead to water conservation. “I think we can do better,” she says.