In water-saving effort, Scottsdale tells HOAs they can’t require overseeding


PHOENIX – When it comes to winter grass, brown is the new green in one Valley city.

On Tuesday, the Scottsdale City Council approved a water-saving measure that prohibits homeowners associations from requiring members to maintain green lawns in the winter.

“Tonight we passed an ordinance which prohibits HOAs from requiring mandatory overseeding. That’s a very important step,” Mayor David Garcia said during a City Council session.

Overseeding is the practice of planting and maintaining grass (typically ryegrass) during the winter months to keep lawns green while the warm-weather grass (typically Bermuda) goes dormant and brown.

“There are some HOAs in town that mandate overseeding, and we’ve had a number of customers say, ‘I just don’t want to. I want to do my part. I want to have a choice,’” Gretchen Baumgardner, Scottsdale water policy manager, said at Tuesday’s session.

The new code goes into effect after 30 days, Baumgardner said. The city already has launched a public information campaign to discourage overseeding, including a promotional video and web page.

The web page says it takes an estimated 8,000 gallons of water to maintain 1,000 square feet of winter grass each season.

In addition to higher water bills, mandated overseeding forces homeowners to take on additional expenses for labor, seed and fertilizer.

In January, Scottsdale asked residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their water use by 5%. Pulling the plug on overseeding is one way to help achieve that goal.

Last year, Scottsdale became the first Arizona city to declare stage one of its drought management plan. Many Valley cities have since followed with similar responses to the Colorado River supply shortage.