By Warren Tenney
Homeowners Associations (HOA) face a difficult balance trying to keep their common areas looking attractive while also keeping water bills under control. The City of Phoenix is the latest AMWUA member city to launch a program to help HOAs manage their water use.
Phoenix piloted its HOA Water Efficiency Program in August at the request of HOA boards eager to reduce what they pay for water. Seven HOAs participated in Phoenix’s pilot program. Initially the program looks favorable but more time is needed to gather data and determine how many of those seven HOAs will cut their water bills and by how much.
This month Phoenix decided to make the program a regular service due to its potential to help HOAs irrigate more efficiently. Here’s how the program works.
- A conservation specialist starts by reviewing an HOA’s water-use history, which often means pulling data from multiple landscape meters. The specialist also uses Geographical Information System technology to measure the amount of grass and desert landscaping in an HOA’s common areas.
- The specialist uses these measurements along with other data to calculate a “water budget” for the HOA’s landscaping. A water budget determines how much water an HOA needs each month – and where it needs it – to keep its trees, shrubs and grass thriving. In the Phoenix pilot program, water budgets found five of the seven HOAs were over watering their landscapes.
- When necessary or by request, the specialist walks an HOA’s grounds to discuss irrigation with its board members, landscaper and property manager. The visit is tailored to fit the needs of the HOA and may include detecting irrigation leaks or testing the efficiency of sprinkler heads.
- The specialist then presents findings to the HOA board, property manager and landscaper that include options for next steps.
- The specialist continues to monitor water use at the HOA and provide updates to the board members.
Phoenix conservation specialists were ready to launch a sophisticated service quickly because they collaborated with colleagues from the AMWUA member cities. Several AMWUA cities, such as Glendale and Gilbert, have similar HOA programs. AMWUA member cities shared calculating methods, technology, audit forms and other information with Phoenix. This type of collaboration is common in the Phoenix area. Conservation staffs from each of the 10 AMWUA member cities have met regularly in the AMWUA offices for more than three decades to share expertise and to build water efficiency programs that benefit the region. (There is no other effort quite like it in the country.)
Phoenix is working toward making the service available more quickly and efficiently. The City plans to develop an online tool that would allow HOAs to calculate their own water budgets and provide short instructive videos about how to look for weaknesses in their irrigation systems and implement changes.
For more information about Phoenix’s HOA Water Efficiency Program visit www.phoenix.gov/wrc.
For 46 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.