When a drought hits, conserving water often becomes a community effort. This includes HOAs who must do their part to both keep up with resident demands for quality lawn care and landscaping, as well as those who are responsible citizens in their communities who try to provide that quality service to their residents without neglecting their responsibility to use water responsibly.
It's a tricky balancing act for a community association to fulfill both responsibilities. However, the following seven tips are some ideas on how to balance both your commitment to your residents and the environment when a drought hits:
Install Water-Efficient Technology:
From sprinklers to watering systems, investing in water-efficient technology now can help your HOA out next time that it is facing a drought situation. This is especially something to consider for communities in the Southwest or California were consistent droughts are all but the norm. This allows you to water your community gardens, lawns, and other plant life often as the local law allows while still conserving water and not using more than is necessary to keep the local plant life alive.
Consider Plants That Need Less Water:
Especially if your HOA is in a location where droughts are common such as New Mexico, Arizona, southern Nevada (i.e., Las Vegas), California, etc., consider getting some plants that require minimal watering. These plants provide greenery without requiring the water that many other plants require. Some options for plants that require little water to sustain life include agave, bougainvillea, portulaca, lithops, blanket flowers, verbena, and cacti to name a few. Planting these kinds of flowers will allow there to be color and vegetation in your area without plants requiring as much watering as many others would require.
Consider Your Landscaping Materials:
Some landscaping materials such as mulch or dirt will soak up more water while others like pebbles or rocks will allow more water to drip through the surface of and get to the roots of the plants that need the water most. Moreover, keeping rocks moist is not necessary, which makes these more "drought friendly" landscaping options than those that soak up much water like sand, dirt, or mulch. Considering this can help your HOA provide the local landscape options that allow the plant to get more water than the surrounding soil while also still offering a pleasing option to the eye as many stones and rock landscapes also look elegant at the same time as allowing the plant to have all the water deposited into the area.
Obey Local Water Use Laws:
For those droughts that get more serious oftentimes you will only be allowed to water lawns, flowers, gardens, etc. for a certain amount of time per week/month/etc. For example, if you are experiencing a severe drought in Phoenix, Arizona, you may be allowed two to 20-minute watering sessions for lawns, gardens, and landscaping each week. When that drought gets more severe, that may be cut to 2 15-minute watering sessions per week. Car washing may also be banned if water shortages get severe enough. Inform residents of these rules and ensure that everyone is aware and follows them accordingly; otherwise, that can come back as a huge fine ($10,000+) on either the family/resident or HOA that breaks the rules and uses too much water during a time when it is being experienced in a shortage.
Consider Replacing Grass With Turf:
For longer-term droughts like the ones being experienced in California, HOAs that replace grass with turfs that need less water can be doing the environment a massive favor. Turf provides residents the "green" color and looks that they want without requiring much extra water to do it. This is being kind to the environment while still providing the community with a solution to their grass needs that are aesthetically pleasing as well.
Understand The Commonality Of Water Shortages:
40 of every 50 HOA managers could experience a water shortage within their managed communities in the next ten years. This means that at some point, virtually 80% of communities will experience a water shortage of some kind! Some will be more severe than others. However, this puts HOA associations at a crossroads as those who are responsible for the use of a lot of water and those that can also control the use of their water by controlling how much they use. Contingency plans are vital to water shortages, as it is apparent now as to how many communities will have to face these shortages in the future.
Communicate New Requirements/Regulations To Residents:
Moreover, community associations can communicate the latest water restrictions to residents as to if they are allowed to wash their cars, how many loads of laundry they should be washing (i.e., the size of each load), how often they can water their lawns, how much water they should be providing vegetation, etc. as well as any new regulations that come into play that affect your local area where your HOA is located. Communicating these laws and regulations to residents can help residents keep from using water in ways that may get them or your HOA fined.
These are some of the best ways for associations to prepare for water shortages and to be responsible citizens of the community while balancing their resident's desires for nice, green, lush landscaping with their ability to save water and contribute to conservation efforts. Moreover, avoiding fines will help your community further save water and money in times of the direst needs for water.