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May 17, 2023

Signed! Bipartisan Bill to Encourage Water Efficient Landscaping

Legislation requires HOAs to provide homeowners with a slate of water-wise landscape designs for lawn replacement

BOULDER, CO – Today Governor Polis signed into law Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, and Representatives Karen McCormick, D-Longmont, and Mandy Lindsay’s, D-Aurora, bipartisan bill to reduce barriers for Colorado homeowners in homeowners associations (HOAs) who wish to replace their lawns with water-wise landscaping.

Also sponsored by Senator Perry Will, R-New Castle, SB23-178 promotes water-wise landscaping, emphasizing native plants that better sustain Colorado’s local ecosystems while requiring little or no irrigation. Many homeowners in HOAs want to replace their lawn and save water, but are deterred by obscure HOA approval processes. The bill streamlines this by requiring HOAs to select and pre-approve water-wise landscape designs for homeowners to choose from, as an alternative to getting HOA permission for their own design.

“Colorado, like many states in the West, is experiencing prolonged drought. Combined with chronic water overuse, the American West is running out of water,” Jaquez Lewis said. “By making it easier for Colorado homeowners to replace their water-guzzling lawns with water-wise landscapes, we can drastically cut down on our overall water usage while maintaining beautiful, unique yards natural to Colorado's climate.”

“As Colorado combats historic drought conditions, water-wise landscaping is a great place to cut back our freshwater usage,” said McCormick. “This law allows almost 3 million Coloradans living in HOAs to have drought-tolerant landscaping options for their lawns, which saves them money and conserves our most precious resource. Beautiful yards don’t have to be water-intensive lawns, and this law reduces barriers to having landscaping that’s eco-conscious, sustainable and biodiverse.” 

“There are many homeowners who are interested in replacing their water-intensive lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping, but until now it didn’t align with their HOA regulations,” said Lindsay. “Under our new law, homeowners living in HOAs can install and enjoy water-wise yards that require less maintenance than traditional turf lawns and utilize native plants to contribute to our state’s beauty. As we face drought head on, cutting back on our freshwater usage is good for the planet and our wallets.” 

The bill also prevents an HOA from requiring hardscape on more than 20 percent of a landscape area, and prevents an HOA from prohibiting vegetable gardens in a homeowner’s yard.

About half of the water used in single-family homes in Denver goes toward “outdoor use,” according to Denver Water. Last year, the legislature passed legislation to create the Turf Replacement Program, which provides financial incentives for voluntary replacement of irrigated turf with water-wise landscaping. SB23-178 complements that initiative by helping homeowners who may not need financial incentives but are hindered by other barriers.

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