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HOA stuns community after setting unprecedented standards for landscaping: 'We have to do this'

"If we're proactive rather than reactive, we can continue to have a say in what happens."

Water-wise landscaping, Unprecedented standards for landscaping

Photo Credit: iStock

One homeowners association in Bakersfield, California, broke the mold in 2023 by removing grass lawns and installing "water-wise" landscaping, 23ABC reported.

California has suffered from a long drought that has left the state's water reserves low, even after a brief period of record rains earlier in the year. To combat the dry conditions, officials are encouraging residents to conserve water. 23ABC reported restrictions on car washes and all outdoor water use, especially after it rains.

One successful initiative has rewarded residents for conserving water by reimbursing them for installing water-saving landscaping. These innovative garden designs use techniques like xeriscaping — installing hardy native plants and other drought-tolerant species that can get by on minimal drip irrigation — to replace water-guzzling grass lawns. 

Many homeowners have jumped at the chance to upgrade to a low-maintenance garden design that lowers their utility bills and conserves precious water. Unfortunately, some HOAs have been resistant, preferring the uniform look of turf grass over unique and beautiful water-wise gardens.

One HOA, however, made waves by going in the opposite direction. According to 23ABC, Solera Properties actually worked directly with the California Water Service to install xeriscaping at four sites on its properties.

"They removed over 49,000 square feet of turf," Tammy Johnson, Cal Water's Bakersfield district manager, told 23ABC. She also said Cal Water's rebate program was able to return about $150,000 to the HOA for making the change and estimated the new xeriscaping would save 1.3 million gallons of water per year, or two Olympic swimming pools' worth.

Karyl Ralles, president of that HOA, told 23ABC that the project was years in the making. "The result is absolutely outstanding, and it's unique in our community, and I'm so glad that we could serve as a showcase for the rest of Bakersfield to see what can be done," Ralles said.

Ralles also hoped that other communities would follow Solera Properties' example. "We have to do this," she said. "We live in a desert area; we want it to be sustainable. If we're proactive rather than reactive, we can continue to have a say in what happens. We can plan."

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