By Kathleen Ferris
The Town of Gilbert helps homeowners associations take the guesswork out of irrigation costs. The town’s voluntary program keeps landscapes looking lovely, saves money and water, and maintains harmony among homeowners and property managers. The goal is to stop HOAs from overwatering their landscapes by making their irrigation systems work more efficiently.
Many Gilbert HOAs use treated wastewater to irrigate their common landscapes, but 104 still use drinking water. If all 104 HOAs joined the program, the annual savings in drinking water would be 263 million gallons or 807 acre-feet. (One acre-foot is enough water to serve the needs of 2.5 typical Phoenix area households for a year.)
Here’s how the HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program works:
- Gilbert’s Water Conservation Office calculates the acreage of turf and desert garden in each HOA’s landscape. With that knowledge and other information, it determines the volume of water needed to keep the landscape healthy.
- The office then compares the volume of water needed to the actual amount of water the HOA is using. The first to be contacted are HOAs exceeding the recommended volume of water by the highest percentages.
- If the HOA agrees, a Gilbert irrigation expert meets with a board member, the property manager and the landscape contractor to determine how, when and where to make changes that would decrease water use.
- It doesn’t end there. Each month, the three representatives receive an email that shows the actual volume the HOA is using compared with the recommended volume.
To begin the program, most HOAs immediately reduce their water use to the volume the town suggests. Soon, specific problems within the irrigation system become obvious when parts of the landscape begin looking stressed.
Gilbert’s irrigation expert will help the HOA determine what is causing these problems, suggest improvements to the irrigation system, and get water use under control. This could mean changing the space between sprinklers, using more water-efficient sprinkler heads, or adding drip emitters that control pressure and ensure even watering. The HOA uses the initial savings from the water bill to invest in improving and maintaining its irrigation system so it can work at peak efficiency.
Gilbert first started the HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program in 2007 and it operated until 2011. Then staffing cuts forced the town to suspend the program. During those years, 17 HOAs joined the program and in 2011 it saved the town 66 million gallons of drinking water. This spring, the town began to rebuild the program and 20 HOAs already are enrolled.
Learn more about the program on Gilbert’s website or check with your city to see what type of help it can offer.
For 45 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.