By Warren Tenney
In the last two years, the Town of Gilbert has more than doubled the number of Homeowners Associations enrolled in a free program that takes the guesswork out of landscape irrigation. The program walks HOAs through the steps that lead to thriving landscapes while using less water and saving money. That information fosters greater harmony among HOA board members, residents, property managers and landscape contractors.
Gilbert’s HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program calculates the acreage of turf and desert-adapted plantings in each HOA’s landscape and, with other detailed information, determines the volume of water needed to keep an HOA’s landscape healthy. Here’s what happens next.
- The Town then compares the volume of water needed to the current amount of water the HOA is using. The Town first contacts HOAs that are exceeding the recommended volume of water by the highest percentages.
- If the HOA agrees, Gilbert irrigation expert Jeff Lee meets with a board member, the property manager and the landscape contractor to determine how, when and where to make changes that would help the HOA use water more efficiently and, likely, lead to lower bills.
- It doesn’t end there. Each month, the three representatives receive an email from Gilbert that shows the actual volume of water the HOA is using compared with the recommended volume.
Most enrolled HOAs immediately reduce their water use to the volume the Town’s calculations suggest. Soon, specific problems within the irrigation system become obvious when parts of the landscape begin looking stressed.
Jeff helps the HOA determine how to solve these problems and suggests improvements to the irrigation system. These improvements 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 started the HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program in 2007 and it operated until 2011 when it was suspended due to the recession and staffing cutbacks. The program restarted in 2014 and had 20 HOAs enrolled by the end of the year. There are 52 communities enrolled in the program today. All but seven irrigate their landscapes with water treated for drinking. The others use highly treated wastewater, called recycled or reclaimed water. These 52 communities have about 500 acres of grass and 500 acres of desert landscaping.
So how effective is this program at saving water? Here are the statistics from Gilbert.
- At the end of 2015, 36 communities were enrolled.
- In 2013, these 36 communities were using 1.2 billion gallons of water for irrigation.
- By the end of 2015, they were using 990 million gallons. That’s a savings of 235 million gallons.
That’s an impressive number, but some of the 36 communities didn’t enroll until the end of 2015, so the potential savings is even greater.
HOA boards are more comfortable knowing their communities are using just the right amount of water for irrigation and knowing what to expect in their water bills each month. More HOAs require their landscape contractors to have similar water-efficiency programs. At least one management company requires their landscape contractors to join Gilbert’s HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program.
Josh Dupper of R.H. Dupper Landscaping Inc. said he has worked years perfecting his own computer program that estimates and irrigates the amount of water an HOA should be using to keep its landscape healthy. Josh has worked closely with Gilbert’s HOA Landscape Irrigation Assistance Program and calls Gilbert’s Jeff Lee a “wealth of knowledge” who has helped Josh improve the efficiency his own irrigation management program. Josh said creating a water-efficiency program for an HOA is complicated with a lot of math and science and Gilbert’s program is needed to help landscapers create better programs.
“You need the city to double check the accuracy for accountability,’’ Josh said. “It’s good to have checks and balances.”
Gilbert isn’t the only city that helps HOAs irrigate more efficiently and save money. Check with your city’s conservation professional for help.
For 47 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.