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Aurora Water & Water-Wise Landscaping

In late April, the CU Boulder Masters of the Environments (MENV) Capstone team met with Diana Denwood, the Water Conservation Supervisor at the City of Aurora, to discuss potential opportunities for Homeowners Associations (HOAs) when it comes to implementing water-wise landscaping projects. Diana does a variety of outreach to educate community members and HOAs on the opportunities to reduce water consumption from residential landscaping, along with managing the Aurora Water-wise Garden.

Water-wise landscaping in Colorado refers to the use of plants and materials for landscaping that is less water-intensive and more resistant to drought. These plant species are generally native to Colorado and are therefore able to withstand extreme heat and droughts. The Aurora City Council declared a Stage I drought effective May 1, 2023, making it especially important to implement water-wise landscaping. This drought declaration places water restrictions from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the entire year and a two-day maximum on water use for landscape purposes from May 1, 2023, until September 30, 2023. The reason Aurora is declaring drought, despite record precipitation this year, is twofold. The first reason is that precipitation does not fall evenly. The sites where Denver collects its water saw much better snowpack this year than the sites where Aurora collects its water. The second reason is that Aurora has junior water rights to Denver, the oldest and largest water utility in the state. Aurora established their water rights in 1957, while Denver established their rights in 1876, meaning that Denver is entitled to receive water before Aurora.

Making the switch to water-wise landscaping can be a daunting task, however, the City of Aurora offers several rebates and incentives to assist in this transition. The Grass Replacement Incentive Program (GRIP) encourages the shift towards water-wise landscapes to not only reduce water use, but to have yards that are more attractive, require less maintenance, and have the ability to withstand drought. Single-family HOAs within the City of Aurora can receive a rebate of up to $4,000 and multi-family HOAs can receive a rebate of up to $50,000 if approved. Additionally, single-family HOAs may be able to receive a rebate for any automatic sprinkler system repairs. Aurora Water provides a free outdoor water assessment to tell homeowners exactly how much money they could save by making this switch. This is especially helpful for HOAs because due to the structure, it can sometimes be difficult to catch an unplanned spike in the water bill.

If you are interested in seeing what a water-wise landscape looks like you can visit the Aurora Water-wise Garden just outside of the Aurora Municipal Center. The garden is open daily and frequently has classes and tours of the specifics of the garden.