Homeowners who want to try more conservative landscaping — and maybe save some money on their water bill. A new state law prohibits homeowner associations from outlawing drought-tolerant landscaping, rain collection and composting. An association can set reasonable regulations and require homeowners to submit landscape plans for approval, according to the law.

It’s a matter of property rights and giving homeowners a way to manage their water bill, says the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. “We worked … to represent homeowners associations and came up with a bill that will allow a reasonable approach,” he says. “We hit a smart balance.” Watson says the law was necessary because some associations have been issuing blanket denials of low-water landscaping, also known as xeriscaping.

Some associations have prohibitions against rain barrels and composting. Rain collection can help irrigate or top off ornamental ponds and other water features without tapping into municipal water systems. Some associations and cities, however, have objected to the appearance of the water tanks.

Composting yard waste such as grass clippings and leaves helps keep debris from landfills and builds soil. However, improperly managed compost piles can attract vermin. Watson says early opposition centered on a misconception about xeriscaping. “Some thought it was all St. Augustine or you are going to have nothing,” he says. “Reasonable restrictions can be made so it’s not just a rock-bin yard.”

There are turf grasses that use much less water than traditional North Texas lawn grasses such as Bermuda and St. Augustine and still provide a nice-looking lawn, he says.

The bill does not, however, require homeowner associations to allow synthetic grass. A similar bill introduced in the House by Rep. Dawnna Dukes, also an Austin Democrat, was replaced by Watson’s bill. Her bill included city and county governmental entities in the changes.

Those provisions were dropped in the Senate version because “frankly, that’s not an issue,” Watson says. He says the bill is an important part of encouraging homeowners to be more conservation-minded in their water use. Most of the state is in a drought, permanent watering restrictions have been imposed in many cities, and increasing population is straining the water supply.

Along with falling supply, water prices are going up, making xeriscaping an even more attractive option. “In the heat of this summer, if I’ve got some disposable income I’m not sure I want to pour it on the ground,” Watson says.

This article was written by KAREL HOLLOWAY and was originally published here.