Looks To Offer Financial Incentives For Creating Water-Wise Landscapes

Colorado

The state of Colorado has introduced a bill that would create a state program to finance the voluntary replacement of irrigated turf and incentivize water-wise landscapes. House Bill 22-1151 defines water-wise landscaping as one that emphasizes native and drought tolerant plants and calls for a state turf replacement program to be developed on or before July 1, 2023.

According to news station KDVR, if the bill passes, “people across the state would receive a dollar for every square foot of non-natives grass they get rid of.”

The bill asserts that irrigation of outdoor landscaping accounts for nearly 50% of water use within the municipal and industrial sectors of Colorado and is mostly used for irrigation of non-native turfgrass. It further states that “evidence from existing programs demonstrate that, for each acre of turf removed, one to two acre-feet per year of water savings can be realized.”

While the bill takes no issue with irrigated parks, sports fields, playgrounds, and portions of residential yards, it says, “much of the turf in the State is nonessential and located in areas that receive little, if any, use.” Examples cited include: medians; areas adjacent to open spaces or transportation corridors; sloped areas of more than 25% grade; stormwater drainage and retention basins; commercial, institutional, or industrial properties; common elements in a common interest community; and portions of residential yards.

Incentive money would not be awarded for replacing turfgrass with impermeable concrete, artificial turf, water features, or invasive plant species. Additionally, it’s encouraged that the incentive program require participants to update irrigation systems for efficiency.

Separate from the state bill, the City of Colorado Springs is currently discussing new zoning which could limit how much grass can be sprinkler irrigated, according to KDVR. The news bureau reports that roughly 40% of water usage in Colorado Spring goes towards keeping residential lawns green. If this local zoning limit passes, says KDVR, existing lawns would be grandfathered in, but new homes would only be allowed to have irrigated sprinklers on 25% of the lawn.

While the Colorado proposal is voluntary, Las Vegas made national headlines last April when officials from the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), which serves a drought-prone area, asked lawmakers from the Las Vegas Assembly Committee on Natural Resources to mandate the removal of “unused” turf by the end of 2026.

For more on Water Shortages and how it will affect landscapers, look for Turf’s special coverage in the June issue! Subscribe now!