TYLER (KYTX) - Texas senators pass a bill meant to help Texans conserve water and save money on their lawns. The bill prevents homeowners associations from restricting drought-resistant landscapes or "xeriscape" lawns.
The bill is backed by Austin State Senator Kirk Watson. He says he filed it in response to the drought of 2011, which was one of the most intense in Texas history. It was hard on trees and lawns- not to mention very costly for homeowners.
Watson says he just wants Texans to have the opportunity to switch to cheaper, lower maintenance yards even if they currently live in a neighborhood that doesn't allow them.
"You could probably save, at certain times of the year, up to 50% or more of your water bill if you pay attention to how much water you put into the landscape." says James Wilhite with Wilhite Landscaping.
He says East Texans have it easy when it comes to creating a drought-resistant landscape.
"Xeriscape in East Texas is totally different than xeriscape in San Antonio or El Paso. East Texas- we have 35 to 40 inches of rain per year."
But, many Texas homeowners associations and property owners associations don't allow them in neighborhoods.
Wilhite says these xeriscape yards are often very lush and beautiful. And, he says it's not always true that they're going to have a "desert look" or be full of cacti, like how a lot of people might think.
"And, if that's the case and it does not detract from the value of the property surrounding it, then I would imagine any homeowners association would approve something like that." says Richard Barnett, president of the HOA in Hollytree subdivision in Tyler.
He says he doesn't see a need for the law.
"I think most homeowners associations are smart enough to figure out what is best for the neighborhood."
He doesn't know of any restrictions on xeriscaping in Hollytree, but says if someone wanted that, it would just be dealt with on a case by case basis.
"If I lived in Arizona or a desert area, maybe xeriscape would be ok, but this is not a desert." says Tyler homeowner David Lee. "This is lush and green all the time."
He says he is not a fan of the drought-resistant yards.
"With nice green grass and plants, it just looks more like East Texas."
He says he tries to conserve water as much as possible, but having a green lawn is worth the cost.
"Lots of things cost a lot of money, but I think keeping up with green and plants growing also produces the good things for our air."
And, he says that's something he's willing to cash in on.
Wilhite says people with green lawns can save money in the summer by watering sparingly. He says just because you have an automatic sprinkler system doesn't mean you need to run it every day. Before those were used, he says people used a lot less water.
Ferns, Indian Hawthorne and hollies can survive with little water once they're established. St. Augustine grass and azaleas require a lot of water, but again, Wilhite says they can often survive well in East Texas because it has so much rainfall.
The bill was passed by the State Senate unanimously on Monday.
It will go to the Texas House of Representatives for a vote, next.