The current drought endured by the state of California is not its first rodeo. Between 1987 and 1992 the second driest period in California history ravaged much of our country not the least of which, in the southwest. Fast forward nearly 20 years and front and center in the hearts and minds of many Californians is that precious resource that many, until very recently, have taken for granted — water.
As a result of Governor Jerry Brown’s recent declaration of a mandatory 25% reduction in water usage property managers, board members, landscape companies in the homeowner association industry are putting their thinking caps on in order to develop working strategies to meet the state-wide water reduction requirement. Impetus to adhere to the mandate is far-reaching including fines and penalties that most association budgets cannot absorb.
This effort cannot be accomplished in a vacuum. Many local California water districts have been actively working to get ahead of this issue. Chief among the strategies are turf removal rebate programs. Incentives are paid based upon the amount of water savings and can be as much as $.60 per 1000 gallons saved per year typically limited to 50% of eligible project costs. Incentive programs vary from city to city and board of directors and their representatives should inquire with their respective city officials as applicable.
Other options available to community associations in an effort to comply with the current drought restrictions are replacing overhead irrigation with rotating nozzles and drip systems. In addition, associations currently using smart timers are well served to use these to full capacity including utilization of flow sensors and master valves. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California offers no-cost-landscape irrigation surveys for homeowner association common areas that have a minimum of one acre of irrigation land.
Last but certainly not least – more plants die from over irrigation than under-irrigation. Weekly meter readings and monthly irrigation tests (while most likely not a part of the landscape contract) can be a productive tool in ensuring that associations are doing their part. Dispensing with the annual over-seed regimen that can require considerable irrigation during the winter months can also be an easy way to conserve water. Associations can also consider changes to their landscape contract to provide incentives to the vendors to work to reduce overall water consumption including locating and fixing any leaks in the irrigation systems.
Ongoing education of association members through newsletters and e-blasts with topics ranging from runoff to artificial turf options to water saving modification of individual owner yards can have high impact with minimal impact on a community’s budget.
The “landscape” of California is changing and it may not be by choice, but homeowner association leaders and its affiliates can choose to take steps to actively be a part of the solution with strategies at low to no cost. Leaders, like water, can sometimes be scarce. Communities throughout the Golden State can stand as a leader in combating the circumstances which we currently find ourselves.
Jerri Boone has worked in the community association industry for 20 years. She holds the Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) designation and is an Executive Director of Management Services at Total Property Management in Irvine, California.