Most homeowners do not seem to know just how much water usage contributes to the association’s operating expenses. This, in turn, affects the HOA fees they pay each month. So, if your association is looking to lower expenses, you may want to look at your current landscaping and water usage. Here’s how an HOA landscape survey can save you money.
Why Do You Need an HOA Landscape Survey?
Unless your community started out with a water-efficient landscape design — such as having drought-resistant and smart landscaping — the HOA will be able to greatly benefit from a landscape survey.
A landscaping survey for HOAs will analyze your current landscaping and watering systems. It will identify landscape areas that require a lot of water, areas where a lot of water is being wasted, areas with faulty irrigation systems, and so on. The main advantage of having such a study is that the association will be able to find ways to reduce water usage.
The water-savings potential of a landscape will be determined by several things:
- Your current irrigation components compared with water-efficient components in the market.
- Your controller programming and irrigation maintenance problems.
- The types of plants in the community and their compatibility with local climate conditions.
- The match between actual water use and the needs of existing plants.
The HOA landscape survey will identify problem areas and possible ways to rectify them. By considering these recommendations, the association can reduce their water bill and save money each month.
Who Conducts an HOA Landscape Survey?
An HOA will have several options to choose from when considering a contractor for the landscape survey.
If you already have a landscaping company, ask them if they are capable of conducting the landscape survey. It’s possible that a maintenance supervisor from your HOA management company will also have the expertise to conduct the landscape analysis.
However, for the best results, you may want to consider an irrigation specialist or a landscape water conservation specialist.
What Are the Components of an HOA Landscape Survey?
Here are the basic components of an HOA landscape survey.
1. Identify water meter locations and test for leaks. Obtain the water bill that goes with each meter to determine current usage.
2. Look for plant health and compatibility with the environment. Native plants and their garden hybrids require the least watering since they are already acclimated. Other plants will need supplemental watering.
3. Find the irrigation controllers and check their programming. These are the clocks that run the irrigation system. Each controller has several stations (timers) hooked up to sets of sprinklers in different locations to provide optimal watering for that location.
4. Turn each station on and flag problems with the irrigation nozzles. Pop-up spray heads and rotors could be tilted sideways, clogged by small stones, have leaks in the pipes, or the spray head could be entirely missing so the water shoots up in a geyser. Each of these very common problems results in wasted water.
5. Look to make sure that all the sprinklers in one station are all the same type — all rotors or all spray heads. Rotors and spray heads send out different amounts of water so they need to have different schedules. Bushes and grass need to be watered by different stations too, so make sure that all plants in one station are of the same type.
6. At a representative station or two, run a uniformity test to make sure everything you want to be watered is being watered. For example, the sprinklers are covering the ground they are supposed to.
7. Check sample areas for soil type and water pressure. Clay soils will require a different watering schedule than other soils since water absorbs slowly in clay soils. If the water pressure is too low, the spray won’t reach far enough; or if it is too high, the water will mist and be blown away by the wind.
8. Evaluation and reporting. The specialist will gather all the information and then compile it into a final report. This includes recommendations to improve efficiency.
Time and Cost of an HOA Landscape Survey
The length of time and relative cost to conduct an HOA landscape survey will depend on your community. Your contractor will have to take into account the size of your HOA’s grounds, how difficult they are to navigate, and how far apart the irrigation systems are.
The time and cost of an HOA landscape survey will also depend on the skills of your contractor. A professional surveyor will take half the time of an amateur, but will still be more thorough in their analysis. So even though you might be paying more for a specialist, their expertise will make up for it.
HOA Landscape Survey Results: How to Take Action?
Keep in mind that simply having an HOA landscape survey will not save you money. Rather, it is about understanding the results of the study and taking prompt action.
Some recommendations will be easy to implement. You may simply need to reposition your irrigation systems and adjust their watering schedule.
In most cases, an HOA landscape survey will also recommend water-efficient upgrades such as smart irrigation systems or solar automatic watering systems.
The study may also recommend replacing your landscape with native or drought-resistant plants. These recommendations may seem confusing since the goal of the HOA landscape survey was to save money. Despite the associated costs, though, these water-saving upgrades are worthy investments because they will be able to save your association money in the long run.
Also, make sure to check with your local government. Some cities like San Diego offer free water survey programs. Your city or state may also have incentives for using water-saving or eco-friendly systems.
Benefits of an HOA Landscape Survey
In this article, we discussed the money-saving benefits of an HOA landscape survey. By identifying problems in your current landscape and irrigation systems, the landscape study can help the association reduce water usage.
Even if you could only implement 10% of these recommendations, you’ll already see drastic improvements in your water bill. Eventually, as you transition to a more water-efficient, eco-friendly landscape design, the HOA will be able to enjoy lower expenses and greater savings.