As severe drought conditions reduced water levels in Lake Mead — Southern Nevada’s primary water supply — the Sun City Anthem Homeowner’s Association (HOA) recognized that HOAs play an active role in helping Southern Nevada conserve water and began taking steps to decrease its community water use. Through a combination of replacing grass, upgrading irrigation controllers, and optimizing its irrigation system, Sun City Anthem is helping Southern Nevada stay water smart while also saving money along the way.
The multi-phase plan to save water, reduce landscape maintenance fees and lower water bills stemmed from a group of volunteers serving on the HOA’s Landscape and Facilities Committee. While not all homeowners were initially enthusiastic about the proposed changes, Larry Fossan, Facilities Maintenance Manager for Sun City Anthem, used his enthusiasm, horticultural expertise and personal interactions to help gain support for the grass conversion projects.
“I took each of the residents who expressed concern on a tour to show them what we were planning and why,” said Fossan. He listened to homeowners’ concerns – such as keeping some grass areas for pets – and educated them about the cost of grass in the desert.
The HOA replaced nearly 15,000 square feet of grass around its community center, saving more than 800,000 gallons of water annually. The project was partially funded through the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s (SNWA) Water Smart Landscapes (WSL) rebate program, which provides property owners a cash incentive of $3 per square foot of grass replaced with drip-irrigated landscaping. Combined with the other grass replacement projects, Sun City Anthem has converted to more than 66,000 square feet of grass, saving nearly 3.7 million gallons annually.
Effective January 1, the City of Henderson launched a supplemental rebate incentive to help its water utility customers make the landscaping switch. The program, which targets non-functional grass located adjacent to public roadways, provides up to an additional $45,000 in rebates for qualifying projects greater than 10,000 square feet. There has never been a better time to ditch that grass and start reducing maintenance costs and water bills.
One of Fossan’s first priorities when he joined the HOA team was to assess and optimize the property’s 70 irrigation controllers and 800 valves. Fossan estimates he and the landscape crew collectively walked 2,400 miles canvassing the HOA, identifying and repairing approximately 6,000 irrigation and landscape issues.
In addition to addressing landscape problems, Fossan reduced watering times at each irrigation station. The efforts resulted in a savings of 30 million gallons of water and $60,000 on the HOA’s water bill in 2019 compared to the previous year.
“Saving water is not rocket science. It’s simple math and being on top of your irrigation system,” Fossan said. “I reduced watering by a minute here and there over multiple irrigation clocks and stations. It adds up.”
The HOA upgraded 28 irrigation clocks to smart irrigation controllers through SNWA’s Water Efficient Technologies (WET) program, which covers up to 50 percent of smart controllers’ costs. The WET program offers cash incentives to commercial and multifamily property owners who install water-efficient devices and technologies. The HOA received nearly $23,000 from SNWA for irrigation upgrades since 2018.
In addition to automatically suspending irrigation when it rains, smart controllers can be monitored and adjusted in real time via a PC or a mobile device. Fossan said this feature allows him to quickly identify problems in the irrigation system and assign them for repair. This fast response time and ability to remotely shut off a valve where a broken sprinkler head may be gushing water helps save water and labor.
Thanks to remote access to the irrigation system, Fossan estimates he and his crew are walking and driving 21 miles less each day. He also has recruited residents to flag irrigation problems during their walks, joining “Larry’s Team” of water-smart residents on the lookout for water waste.
Fossan and the HOA management team have multiple proactive plans to help Sun City Anthem and its residents save money and water in the future. Fossan enjoys sharing these ideas with other HOAs looking to save as drought conditions continue to challenge Southern Nevadans to use less water. “If all the HOAs did what we’ve done here at Sun City Anthem, it would greatly change water use in the valley,” Fossan said.
SNWA experts are standing by to help your business or HOA save money and water through the SNWA’s cash incentive programs. Call 702-862-3740 today or visit snwa.com to learn more.