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This Important Item Is Missing From Your HOA Budget


Landscaping and water cost are two of the most significant expenses for most HOA Budget, but how the water is delivered and controlled is a reserve fund expense most HOAs miss. Homeowner Associations (HOAs) experienced rapid growth in the 80s and 90s, and for many, this included irrigation systems to water the landscape. 

HOA Budget

In addition, many HOAs added smart controllers to their irrigation systems to save water and improve the look of their landscape.  Irrigation systems and irrigation technology have an expected life span. As more of these systems reach the end of their expected life, more and more HOAs are discovering they did not budget for replacement.

What Are Reserve Funds In An HOA Budget

Reserve funds are HOA fees allocated for the replacement and repair of HOA assets.  An HOA reserve fund study lists the significant items HOA residents share (think roads, roofs, pools, tennis courts, irrigation systems, and controllers) and the costs to replace them over time. When allocating for an irrigation system, consider the cost of the entire system, not just the sprinkler heads. 

This means all the pipe, wire, and fittings plus irrigation components and controllers. This is often overlooked, and now lots of systems are reaching their expected life spans. This means lots of unnecessary finger-pointing and tense moments at HOA meetings that don’t need to happen.

How Long Should An Irrigation System Last

In general, irrigation systems are built to last.  Depending on the type of system and part of the country, most experts agree you should get somewhere between 15 and 25 years.  In colder parts of the country, this number will be on the shorter side, and in warmer regions, it will be longer.

For controllers, due to changes in technology, it will be more often. Water-saving technology proliferates each year, and your system will benefit from this advancement in terms of water savings and a better-looking landscape. Smart controllers like smartphones need more regular replacing because the benefits of the technological improvements justify the expense. 

Most controllers, including smart controllers, will last ten years, but who wants to hang on to the same innovative technology for ten years. Due to improvements in water management technology, most HOAs will be justified making a replacement every 5 – 10 years.

How Much Should Be Set Aside For Maintenance And Repair Of Irrigation

There are so many variables contributing to what your system costs it is difficult to give this a general number. To do this accurately, you will need an expert who can identify all the components of your system, evaluate the labor required for replacement, and calculate an amount.  For most properties, this should not take more than a day. Companies like ETwater provide free water use analysis. These are used to determine the return on investment of an irrigation upgrade. These are excellent for showing HOAs the value of their investment.

For those of you serving on HOA boards, I applaud your efforts to make your communities better places to live. The job is endless, sometimes thankless, and takes commitment. Taking time to budget for your irrigation retrofit will make the future road to improvement of your HOA smoother and make the costs associated much easier to handle, making the overall value of the community higher.

Here is an example of an HOA board that saved more than 200,000 in water. Sun City Grand, a 300-acre Community Association in Surprise, Arizona was spending over $700,000 a year on water for irrigation. With recent dry spells in Arizona and rising water costs in the state, Sun City Grand needed to find ways to lower water usage and conserve their Community Association’s funds. 

Sun City Grand discovered they could gain significant water and cost savings by using weather-based ‘smart irrigation’ technology. Smart irrigation promised to address the shortcomings of their conventional sprinkler timers by automatically and continuously adjusting to the local weather and watering their grounds for precisely how much would be needed, only when it needed. You can read their success story here.

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