While the intense drought of a few years ago has waned, many municipalities in the Front Range area still impose mandatory or voluntary watering restrictions. Even if your city or water district does not impose mandatory restrictions, there are many things residents and your association can do to reduce the amount of water needed to keep landscaping green throughout the summer months, including:
- Water during the evening or night hours to avoid evaporation of water during the heat of the day
- Adjust watering times per zone to shorten the amount of time per cycle during cooler spring and fall months
- Adjust sprinkler heads so they are not spraying onto sidewalks and driveways
- Install rain-sensors so sprinklers do not run when it is raining
- Hand water where possible
- Install a drip irrigation system for flowers and shrubs
- Install drought tolerant plant materials (xeriscape)
Following the drought of 2002 in Colorado, the issue of water conservation took center stage. As most board members and managers are aware, as part of a much broader water conservation and drought mitigation plan, in 2005 the Colorado legislature took action to regulate the types of landscapes that may be required by community associations. So, if an owner applies for permission to install xeriscaping, what is the Association to do?
Section 37-60-126(11)(a) of the Colorado Revised Statutes provides that “Any section of a restrictive covenant that prohibits or limits xeriscape, prohibits or limits the installation or use of drought-tolerant vegetative landscapes, or requires cultivated vegetation to consist exclusively or primarily of turf grass is hereby declared contrary to public policy and, on that basis, that section of the covenant shall be unenforceable.” In the statute, a “restrictive covenant” is broadly defined as “any covenant, restriction, bylaw, executive board policy or practice, or condition applicable to real property for the purpose of controlling land use, but does not include any covenant, restriction, or condition imposed on such real property by any governmental entity.”
In practical terms, what does this statutory provision mean? First, it means that associations cannot require residents to install landscapes made up of more than 50% turf grass. Turf grass is defined by statute as “continuous plant coverage consisting of hybridized grasses that, when regularly mowed, form a dense growth of leaf blades and roots.” Second, associations cannot require the installation of landscapes that do not permit the use of drought-tolerant vegetation. Third, associations can regulate the use of things like concrete, asphalt, rock and artificial turf since they are not considered xeriscape materials. Fourth, associations can require residents wishing to install a xeriscape – or to change an existing landscape to a xeriscape – to follow the association’s architectural submission and approval requirements. The requirements for traditional landscapes and xeriscapes should be consistent. Finally, associations are permitted to require residents to adequately water all landscapes, including xeriscapes, unless a water restriction is in place. Upon the lifting or expiration of a water restriction, associations must provide residents with a reasonable period of time to revive turf grass. If turf is not able to be revived, an association is permitted to require residents to replace the turf grass.