Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

In Battle Between Lawns and HOAs, Lawmaker Files Bill to Save Water

Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

A new bill proposed by a Democratic State Senator would prevent HOAs from going after residents who want to use less water for landscaping.

While some Texans have employed water-efficient landscaping as a way of dealing with the ongoing drought, a large group is often left out: those who live in homes belonging to Home Owners Associations, or HOAs. HOAs can have strict restrictions on what kind of grass a homeowner can plant for a lawn (sometimes, the thirsty St. Augustine variety is mandated) and how green it has to be kept, water restrictions be damned. That has resulted in conflict between some homeowners, who wish to switch to drought-resistant grasses, or simply let their lawns die during drought-stricken summers, and HOAs, which have threatened to fine them for doing so.

Entering the fray this week is State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin), with a bill that would help homeowners living in HOAs switch to more water-friendly landscaping.

Senate Bill 198 would protect homeowners in HOAs who want to use less water by: using yard trimmings and glass clippings on their lawn for composting; putting in rain barrels or rainwater harvesting systems; installing more efficient irrigation; and/or using “drought-resistant landscaping or
water-conserving turf.” 

Watson has also filed a bill that would require power plants to look into more “water-efficient technology when they retrofit or construct power plants,” according to the Senator’s website.

The previous session of the legislature saw a bill passed that reduced HOAs’ power, allowing residents to fly flags, install solar panels, and put in rain barrels (but HOAs can still restrict where the barrels are located and their color).

With these latest bills, Watson hopes to move beyond simply funding new water infrastructure to deal with the state’s water woes. “These two bills are just the start of what I hope to be a session full of progress as we evaluate our water supply and our future — and as we look for ways to help Texans do better when it comes to paying for, planning for, prioritizing, and conserving our increasingly scarce and always essential water resources,” Watson said in a statement.


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