There are various ways the HOA can save water while still keeping up with maintenance. HOA water conservation, while often done to reduce water costs, is also just a matter of smart community management. Here are a few ways to boost HOA water savings while helping the larger community conserve water as well.
Why Should an HOA Save Water?
The U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information continuously monitors drought conditions throughout the country, and the recent reports are concerning. Moderate to extreme drought now covers more than 13% of the US, and it’s a rising trend, too.
Given the current water availability issues, water conservation will increasingly become important to HOAs in the years ahead. Climate change concerns, pandemic concerns, a growing population, and an aging infrastructure all put pressure on associations to save water.
Even now, a handful of U.S. states are facing tighter water supplies. It’s a situation that will only get worse with global warming, and the added pressure of the current pandemic.
For community associations, all these can create a host of challenges and opportunities to serve residents. HOA boards now also have a chance to counter negative perceptions of community association living. One way to overturn the perception that HOA living is wasteful is to look for ways on how to reduce the water bill.
How Can an Environmentally-Friendly HOA Save Water?
Community association residents are bound together by governing documents and rules that protect the value and look of the community. These rules can promote environmentally friendly practices. However, as is the case with many older communities, they can also serve as an obstacle for greener living.
The biggest challenges that many existing communities face are a burden of rules that no longer fit contemporary environmental demands or residents’ needs.
On issues related to water, these obstacles can take several forms. First, many communities in the southwest have rules that mandate green lawns. In an arid environment, this can be a challenge — not to mention extravagant.
Second, there are other rules that may limit residents to an enumerated list of landscaping options or prevent the installation of water-saving devices like rain barrels.
However, there are alternative ways that let an HOA save water without having to overturn its current rules.
The Different Ways an HOA Save Water
Boards and managers should take a proactive approach to empower residents with a host of options for water conservation. This can take place on both a community-wide and individual basis. First, making more efficient use of resources saves money!
Let’s take a look at the different ways that let an HOA save water without having to resort to new policies. Even residents can do this on their own, all without running afoul of most lawn and landscaping regulations.
1. Cut Down on Watering
If your home or HOA maintenance crew are still using automated sprinklers, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider. Much of the water spent on regular sprinkler setups are wasted. In fact, around 50% of the water used on landscaping and lawn maintenance are simply lost, according to the EPA. Water run-off from poorly positioned sprinklers, as well as avoidable evaporation losses, are often the culprit here.
An HOA can reduce water costs by reducing this water waste. One way to do that is by watering manually. Skip the automatic sprinklers for a while, and let the crew water the lawn and the gardens by hand as they inspect them. Manual watering can go a long way to help control water waste.
Depending on the season and the condition of the lawn and the plants, an HOA landscaping crew can also try to water less often. During spring or early summer, for example, most lawns can do fine even when watered just once every two weeks. Every watering session you can skip is a major contribution to your HOA water conservation efforts.
Of course, the HOA also needs to make sure they are on top of any landscaping issues that may arise. If the lawn starts to develop signs of browning, thinning spots, or dry areas, then it’s time for more aggressive watering. In this case, it’s worth it to turn the automatic irrigation system back on.
2. Check Your Sprinklers
It’s a common sight in many HOAs that use automatic sprinklers. All too many times, one or more sprinklers end up watering the sidewalk, and the occasional passerby, more than it waters the grass.
It seems obvious, but sometimes, the crew needs to check their sprinklers every now and then. Sprinklers meant to water the lawn should hit the area they intend to. If they end up sprinkling asphalt, or a planting bed with different watering requirements, then someone needs to move them.
It’s also a good idea to invest in good sprinklers, and make sure they are getting just the right water pressure. Sprinklers that send out a fine mist instead of a robust rain are wasting more water than they need to. Around 20%of the water from a fine mist sprinkler gets lost to evaporation and the wind, especially during the dry season.
3. Check Your Irrigation System for Leaks
Aside from run-off and evaporation losses, leaks are another common cause of wastage when it comes to irrigation systems. Make sure that irrigation system maintenance is an explicit part of your landscape vendor contract. If possible, they should routinely check for leaks every time they turn on the irrigation system.
4. Upgrade Your Garden Soil with Mulch
Garden plants and trees love mulch, and adding mulch to the base of your shrub beds and trees will greatly improve their health and appearance. One other advantage of mulch is the way it absorbs moisture, too. Not only do you get healthier gardens, but you also get to water less.
Make Fundamental Changes to Your Association
Water conservation techniques, as applied by your landscaping maintenance crew, can be a huge help. That said, saving water can extend to the rest of the community as well. It requires a motivated HOA board to push through some reforms when it comes to water conservation. Once in place, the benefits are more than worth it.
Reviewing association water usage and community rules just makes economic sense. The built-in social infrastructure of community associations also provides a forum to educate and inform residents about the habits they can cultivate to conserve water and increase water use efficiency.
The key to any successful effort is to frame it as a process of creating options rather than restricting or mandating certain actions. Make it less about water use restrictions, and more about creating more financial freedom with lower utility bills.
From a community management perspective, consider these ideas:
- Review community CC&Rs and bylaws for outdated rules related to watering, yards, or planting
- Contact your local water authority or area non-profit conservation organization for a water usage audit
- Consider a complimentary water use analysis
- Create a list of best practices for residents, in line with community restrictions, that allow for more efficient water usage
- Host a meeting or educational session at the community clubhouse or publish an article in a community newsletter on steps individuals can take for more efficient water use
- Plan a community awareness “green” event
Help Your HOA Save Water with a Bit of Community Effort
With a little forethought and planning, today’s managed communities can lead the way to sensible water usage and environmental impact. You can help your HOA save water today by putting these tips into action.