When mulling over the pros and cons of keeping its water-thirsty grass last year, the Sundial Drive Homeowner’s Association (HOA) surveyed its residents for input. The board was deciding whether to keep the grass and raise HOA fees to cover water and maintenance costs or replace the grass with a water-smart landscape. While some residents expressed strong support for keeping the grass, none of the residents wanted HOA fees to increase.
“Grass is beautiful, but it’s expensive when you live in the desert…residents don’t see the costs because the HOA pays the water bills,” said Carolyn Bruce, Sundial Drive HOA president.
Bruce acknowledged that several homeowners were not supportive of the HOA’s water-saving efforts at first. But, while five of the 17 residents who returned the survey were opposed to the landscape conservation project, none attended the meeting to oppose the HOA board’s decision to upgrade more than 35,000 square feet of grass to a water-efficient landscape through the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) Water Smart Landscapes (WSL) rebate program.
“We have a lot of homeowners from the Midwest, and they’re crazy about grass,” Bruce said, noting that a few outspoken residents stopped her on the street to discuss the project. “But when the conversion was done, most of the residents were on board and thought the change looked nice.”
The 44-home senior-living community in the northwest Las Vegas Valley had replaced all the grass in front yards a decade ago. The HOA board decided to upgrade all the backyards in 2020 through the SNWA’s rebate program.
The WSL rebate provides a cash incentive of up to $3 per square foot to replace grass with drip-irrigated landscapes. The Sundial Drive HOA received about $68,000 from the SNWA rebate program to help underwrite the costs of its water-smart landscape project, and the community is saving nearly 2 million gallons of water a year.
“When the project was finished, it was worth it. Everyone has been very happy with the results, and they’re also happy we didn’t raise our HOA dues,” Bruce said, though she noted there were still a few residents who prefer grass. “Unfortunately, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t agree. But, the board is responsible for paying the bills, and we made the right decision.”
“Many HOA’s are reluctant to convert non-functional grass areas because they’re concerned about backlash from residents. But our research has found more than 70 percent of homeowners support their HOA’s efforts to upgrade to a water-smart landscape,” said SNWA Conservation Manager Doug Bennett.
HOA boards will find the impetus to upgrade to water-smart landscapes easier moving forward. New legislation enacted in Southern Nevada prohibits the use of Colorado River water to irrigate decorative, nonfunctional turf by the end of 2026. Assembly Bill 356 (AB356) targets unused grass in streetscapes, medians, parking lots, HOA community entrances and other areas where it is only aesthetic and not recreational.
“The amount of water we’re applying to these decorative turf areas exceeds the amount of water cuts we will take under the recent federally-declared shortage on the Colorado River,” Bennett said, explaining that ongoing drought in the Colorado River basin has caused Lake Mead to drop more than 140 feet over the past two decades. the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued a shortage declaration that will reduce the community’s annual water allocation by 7 billion gallons beginning in January 2022.
“With the shortage declaration, everyone in the community needs to step up their water conservation commitment, and one of the solutions to balancing our water supply is literally beneath our feet,” Bennett said, noting that replacing nonfunctional turf will save more than 9.5 billion gallons of water annually in Southern Nevada.
Find out how you can reduce your business’ operating costs and take advantage of cash incentives by contacting one of SNWA’s business experts at 702-862-3740 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.