Water Conservation: It's In Denver's Nature

Published on June 15, 2023

It's In Denvers Nature: Water Conservation

Water. It’s a complicated topic. Population growth, long-term warming and drying trends (climate models predict an 8-17% increase in temperatures by 2050), major wildfires and multi-year droughts have all put a strain on Colorado's water supply. It’s natural to worry about the future of Denver’s water.

How does this strain impact our parks and open spaces? Currently, about 40% of the water provided by Denver Water is used for outdoor landscapes. Water is a precious resource throughout the year in the Mile High City, so it’s always a good time to highlight what Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) is doing to conserve water, and how residents can get involved.

DPR continuously works to optimize water efficiency by building out central control irrigation, converting park irrigation systems to reuse water, implementing new technologies, and analyzing water-use and budgets. When we talk about water in our parks, however, we must also discuss lawns and landscapes. Today, more than 63% of Denver’s urban park system is covered in water-demanding, non-native bluegrass. So, we’re working to balance the need to cut back on water usage while maintaining the beauty Denverites have come to appreciate.

The data speaks for itself:

  • Native vegetation uses 70% less water than bluegrass.
  • One acre of bluegrass requires up to 700,000 gallons of water annually vs. an acre of native grass that uses 215,000 gallons annually.
  • That’s 1.25 Olympic-sized swimming pools per acre per year for bluegrass vs. one-third of an Olympic swimming pool for native grasses -- almost four times as much water!

With this, our friends at Denver Water remind us that ColoradoScaping – meaning more drought- and climate-resilient vegetation and less traditional bluegrass – allows for reducing water use, freeing up maintenance time and ensuring water is available for the fun COLORADO stuff. Plus, it makes Colorado more Colorado (and less Kentucky).

By transforming water-demanding bluegrass landscapes to more regionally appropriate plant and tree species, DPR is reducing irrigation use by millions of gallons annually and increasing biodiversity. We also have an active partnership with Denver Water to continually explore alternative water sources and infrastructure investments.

We’re proud of our efforts, but we cannot do it alone. Wondering how you can contribute to water conservation? Here are some easy ways to start:

  1. Explore installing a rain barrel
  2. Let the Colorado State University Extension provide tips on gardening and landscaping
  3. Follow these watering tips from Denver Water and explore their residential rebates, too
  4. Join us as a volunteer, donor or partner
  5. Learn more about The Pollinator Trail, a Denver Park Trust initiative to restore native landscapes – which promote less water use and more pollinators in our city

Water isn’t an unlimited resource, and the DPR Water Management Plan provides guidance on increasing water efficiency, water reuse and outlines a strategic drought response plan. But we can’t do it alone. It takes all of us. Denver’s One Water Plan features an unprecedented partnership between the City and County of Denver, Denver Water, Mile High Flood District, Metro Water Recovery, Greenway Foundation and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to modernize water usage and cooperatively and efficiently manage the entire water cycle.

Other partners and volunteers include the Downtown Denver Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, the Denver Zoo, The Park People and the CSU Salazar Center for North American Conservation, which are all working toward a common goal. And you! We’re grateful for everyone who is committed to conserving water throughout our city. Together we can all use less to help Denver more.