View our Water Conservation infographic here.

California's drought has been a long one, and no end appears to be in sight. With KQED, Northern California’s public media station, warning that reservoirs are at low points already, experts wonder how long the state's water reserves will last if current water usage rates continue. Communities throughout California have implemented "no water" days, and some are cutting back the amount of treated drinking water they are providing, forcing utility companies to tap into ground water to serve their residents.
Water conservation is on the minds of all California homeowners. As summer is quickly approaching, homeowner association (HOA) leaders throughout California need to be proactive in making the necessary changes within their communities. Is your HOA board doing enough? Does your HOA make water conservation a high priority? Here are five strategies you can implement to help minimize water usage within your community.
1. Make Changes in Common Areas
As board members, you can set the example for your community by implementing water-saving changes in the common areas of your facility. If you have a common restroom, install low-flow toilets and water conserving sinks. Swap out fresh indoor plants for artificial to eliminate the need to water. The more ways you can conserve water in the common areas, the more money will go back into your community’s pocket.
2. Take a Closer Look at Landscaping
Landscaping can be a huge source of wasted water. Christina Rodrigues of FirstService Residential in California, a leading residential property management company, saw this fact first-hand. She was managing a community that has over 25 acres of landscaping and walking trails. Christina found that the community's current landscaping plan used over 23 million gallons of water on these areas a year, yet the plants were still struggling. The source of the problem was old and poorly maintained irrigation equipment combined with plants that required large amounts of water.
Under Christina’s management, the community's landscape committee worked with local vendors and environmental specialists to make updates to these areas. Using drought tolerant, California-friendly plants and irrigation improvements, the team went from using 23 million gallons of water to 6.5 million gallons of water, reducing total annual water usage by 40 percent. California State Assemblywoman Diane Harkey was impressed. "Your project's efforts to conserve water and adopt sustainable landscape maintenance practices make it a model for other communities to follow in Southern California," Harkey said.
3. Educate Residents About Water Conservation
As the HOA board, setting the example is just the first step in improving water consumption for your community. Provide regular communication with residents about the importance of water conservation. For example, you could include how to install water-saving features in your homes or condos, and tips for conserving water as part of the community newsletters and emails. The more education you provide to your residents, the more effective your water conservation plan will be.
4. Conduct an Energy Audit
An energy audit is a review of your energy usage with the goal of identifying ways to save your community money. While an energy audit will look at all of your utilities, including electric and gas, it can also prove to be an invaluable tool to help you find and eliminate areas of water waste. A third-party energy audit company can provide an unbiased point of view to help your HOA board and community take action to minimize water consumption.
5. Partner with a Residential Property Management Company
Is your board working with a residential property management company? If not, doing so could help improve your water conservation efforts.
At first glance, a property management company may seem as though it has little to do with water conservation. These companies offer services like facilitating communication between community members and leadership, helping board members set up and run board meetings more efficiently and improving the quality of life for those in the community.
Yet utilities are an important aspect of managing a community, and the right management company can help. These organizations can create water-saving strategies, arrange for energy audits, facilitate better communication with residents and manage energy-saving improvements for their communities.
Conserving water is a real concern for anyone who lives in California. If you are already working with a residential property management company, make sure they are doing their best to help you reduce water usage. Is your HOA board doing its part? Contact FirstService Residential today to begin your energy audit and to receive the tips your community needs to begin conserving water, lowering your water bills and improving the California environment.
Monday April 07, 2014