Water availability in Colorado may never again be what it was, prompting efforts to voluntarily limit use to stave off regulatory steps.
“We’re definitely seeing the results of climate change that climate scientists call ‘the aridification of the West.’ We’re no longer experiencing periodic drought, but we’re experiencing drought as the new normal,” said Jayla Poppleton, executive director of Water Education Colorado.
Water Education Colorado is a nonprofit organization attempting to raise awareness of the challenge that Colorado and the West face as the Colorado River and its great reservoirs continue their decline.
“As we recognize what we’re dealing with, we can all get on board to conserve and protect this incredibly limited resource,” she told BizWest in an interview.
“The question we are asking ourselves as a statewide community and as we update the 2015 Colorado Water Plan is ‘what are our values going to be?’
She acknowledged that Colorado has enough water to supply municipal communities, but “that comes at a price to the ag community and wildlife. … It’s a moment of self determination — what do we want to be as a state?”
Poppleton’s organization this year is running a campaign to encourage state residents to tap into 22 ways to save water in order to reduce water use per person by 22 gallons daily or 8,000 gallons yearly. That would amount to 48 billion gallons of water statewide annually if everyone were to take up the challenge.
The suggestions include both strategies for inside the home and outside, but the biggest opportunities involve outdoor water consumption.
“Fifty to 60% of water is used outdoors,” she said.
Limiting use of turf in landscaping and replacing it with native plants and xeriscape offers a cost-effective way to reduce water consumption. She expects more communities to offer “cash for grass” programs.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t come down to this in Colorado, but Nevada law by 2026 won’t allow turf to be watered for private use,” she said. Watered grass would exist only in congregate areas such as athletic fields.
The full list of 22 ideas are:
- Find out where water comes from — other than the faucet.
- Reduce water use when getting ready for work by showering instead of bathing and turning water off when brushing teeth.
- Use appliances to wash dishes and clothes, and run them only when full.
- Save water during food preparation and disposal. Compost instead of using the disposal.
- Fix leaks in toilets or faucets.
- Toss trash instead of flushing it.
- Install low-flow toilets and shower heads.
- Limit turf.
- Water only at dawn or dusk, not midday.
- Install efficient sprinklers and adjust to avoid runoff.
- Keep lawns at least 3 inches in length; aerate annually.
- Skip watering when it rains.
- Sweep driveways instead of spraying.
- Advocate with homeowner associations and landlords for water-smart practices.
- Use car washes that recycle water instead of washing cars in the driveway.
- Clean up after pets to avoid spread of disease in water.
- Use phosphorus-free fertilizers; limit pesticides and herbicides.
- Prevent leaks from cars parked on the street.
- Let only rain go down storm drains.
- Clear snow and ice without chemicals.
- Capture rainwater for gardens.
- Stay connected to Water22.org.
Poppleton encouraged people to take the Water 22 Pledge, a campaign that will continue through the year, with a plan for 2023 under discussion.