Cash for Grass: #Colorado to pay for turf removal, boost #water #conservation — @WaterEdCO

Thornton home and lawn 2019. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Caitlin Coleman):

A new turf replacement program, set to roll out in Colorado in 2023, will pay to convert some of the grass in urban areas and residential yards into more water-efficient landscaping. This is the first time the State of Colorado has dedicated funds expressly to turf replacement. It’s an important step to increase water conservation and get it closer to where it needs to be, said state officials and conservation leaders at a confab earlier this month. But this version of cash for grass will be just one of many tools — and maybe not the most influential one — that will transform landscaping in the state in response to climate change and reduced water availability.

As climate change, drought, and crisis on the Colorado River intensify, outdoor water use and nonessential turf become increasingly important targets for water conservation. Today, 40% of Colorado’s municipal and industrial water use goes toward outdoor irrigation.

“Water conservation is critical. We’re talking about how we can build the landscapes of tomorrow, today,” said Russ Sands section chief of water supply planning for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) in kicking off the Colorado Landscape Summit on November 9. More than 150 people attended, either online or in person, this first-ever landscape summit hosted by the CWCB at Metro State University in Denver. “Outdoor turf removal is a really critical part of this discussion.”

The outdoor water-saving conversation has been gaining momentum in Colorado. The state legislature passed House Bill 1151 in June 2022, requiring the CWCB to develop a turf replacement program that will provide incentives for replacing nonessential irrigated turf with more water-wise landscaping. According to the bill, examples of nonessential turf include medians, land adjacent to open spaces, stormwater detention basins, commercial or industrial properties, portions of residential lawns, and more. The new law also came with an allocation of $2 million to finance the program.

Now the agency is working to set up that grant program, with details expected this spring and applications set to open sometime after July 2023. Local governments, special districts, nonprofits, and tribal nations will be eligible to apply, and individuals interested in receiving funds may be able to work with those entities to access the money.

But the program’s $2 million in initial funds won’t stretch far or transform the state’s turf on its own, said Peter Mayer with Water Demand Management, or WaterDM, an engineering consulting firm.

“The amount of money being spent in Colorado is ultimately nothing compared with what’s being spent in a single year in southern Nevada or southern California,” Mayer said.

After subtracting staffing and administration costs, some $1.5 million will remain for incentives to transform landscapes. That money is expected to be distributed in two cycles of $750,000 over two years, with the majority funneled into existing local turf replacement programs. For the program to continue beyond 2025, Colorado will have to find additional funding. However, though not specifically set aside for turf replacement, the CWCB’s Water Plan Grants and Water Supply Reserve Fund Grants may also be used to fund turf replacement work.

In August 2022, some public water providers and cities who rely on water supplies from the Colorado River Basin, including Aurora Water, Denver Water and Pueblo Water, signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to reduce per capita water use. On November 15, additional water providers and agencies signed on, bringing the total to more than 30 entities across the West. The MOU says each of the water providers will introduce a program to reduce the amount of “non-functional turf grass by 30% through replacement with drought- and climate-resilient landscaping, while maintaining vital urban landscapes and tree canopies that benefit our communities, wildlife and the environment.” Details about how this will be accomplished have not yet been released.

Colorado is hoping to maintain those same qualities with its turf replacement program, said Sands.

But there’s still a lot to learn about how much savings Colorado can expect from turf replacement, what level of incentives are necessary to encourage participation, and what other potential costs and benefits there may be.

The state is trying to learn from neighbors with large-scale programs. The Southern Nevada Water Authority, which provides water to Las Vegas and surrounding cities, has been collecting data on its turf replacement program for almost 25 years, providing a helpful resource for Colorado officials.

Since the late 1990s, the authority has converted about 4,600 acres of turf, saving 467,000 acre-feet of water, at a cost of around $285 million. The average landscape conversion through the authority’s program resulted in a 19% to 21% reduction in water use. Among other findings, participation in the authority’s program correlates with the scale of the incentives – when cash incentives increase, participation increases.

Colorado should expect about one-third of the water savings that Nevada has seen, said Doug Jeavons, managing director with BBC Research, a firm that served as the CWCB’s water economy specialist in working on the 2019 Technical Update to the Colorado Water Plan. That is because of cooler temperatures and the fact that we don’t water turf year-round here, which means a lower starting point for outdoor water use and therefore less potential savings from turf replacement.

“Lower [water] savings basically means less favorable economics for a property that wants to participate in this program,” Jeavons said. In other words, it will take a property in Colorado more time to see the cost savings that result from reduced water bills due to their landscape conversion than it does in Nevada.

Economics aren’t the only reason to convert a property’s turf to water-wise landscaping. A 2018 Alliance for Water Efficiency study on landscape transformation found that most customers aren’t happy with their landscaping and 69% of all respondents have already considered taking out their lawns, said Mayer, who led the study.

“There’s just not enough [state] money to buy [out] all the landscapes [to transform them from grass to water-wise vegetation] so we have to do the work ourselves toward changing the market and shifting the culture,” Mayer said. “We have to create a new Colorado landscape ethos of less water use, minimizing outdoor water use.”

According to Mayer, incentives aren’t the only way to encourage that change. Codes, ordinances, regulations, land use planning and zoning, water bills, and ultimately education and culture change all play a role, he said. But while making those changes, it’s important to minimize any unintended negative impacts, maintain the tree canopy, minimize the heat island effect, and transform landscapes in an equitable way.

To date, 22 turf replacement programs exist across Colorado, and many other utilities have water conservation programs that target outdoor irrigation.

Colorado Springs Utilities offers a turf replacement rebate and works to incentivize customers to update their landscaping, shifting to plants that can thrive on 12 inches of irrigation per year or less, said Julia Gallucci, the water conservation supervisor for the utility. The city is also focusing on retrofitting parks and public areas where people can see examples of different types of water-wise landscaping.

Colorado’s West Slope communities are also looking to reduce outdoor water use, but face different challenges.

Some residents in the Roaring Fork Valley, for instance, use untreated water for outdoor irrigation that is not metered through the utility, complicating conservation efforts. “We have raw water supplies so it’s difficult to put in outdoor water restrictions because a neighbor might be pulling water from a ditch, so there’s confusion,” said April Long manager of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. “I think we still need to do some work on changing expectations.”

Meanwhile, the City of Aurora, which offers a grass replacement incentive, upped the ante. In August 2022, the city passed an ordinance that restricts turf in new developments. The city no longer allows “non-functional,” cool weather turf to be installed at new development projects, redevelopment, or at new golf courses. The installation of turf is also banned from medians, curbsides and residential front yards.

“The key is to not put turf in in the first place,” said Tim York, water conservation supervisor for the City of Aurora. In developing its ordinance, Aurora engaged developers and community members. “You want them to get involved because it’s the right thing to do, not because we told them to do it.”

Caitlin Coleman is a contributor to Fresh Water News and is editor of Water Education Colorado’s Headwaters Magazine. She can be reached at

Borne of Water — American Rivers

Borne of Water illustrates the journey of water, from mountain snow to flowing rivers. Inspired by a historical Hopi event, the film shows how climate change is impacting water and rivers today. Reduced snowpack and shrinking flows impact all who live along the river. Tiyo, a Hopi boy, grows curious about where the water goes once it passes through his village on the Colorado River. To quench his curiosity, he traverses the Colorado River in hopes of saving his village from drought. Through Tiyo’s journey and lessons about what changes and what remains, we find deeper meaning in how water connects us to past, present, and future.

Imperial Irrigation District approves possible $250 million #SaltonSea deal with feds, state — The Palm Springs Desert Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

The New River, a contaminated waterway that flows north from Mexico, spills into the Salton Sea in southwestern California’s Imperial Valley. (Image: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

Click the link to read the article on the Palm Springs Desert Sun website (Janet Wilson). Here’s an excerpt:

Southern California’s powerful Imperial Irrigation District voted late Tuesday [November 22, 2022] 3-2 to ink an agreement with federal and state officials that could yield as much as $250 million for Salton Sea restoration projects in exchange for not using another 250,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water. An acre-foot is enough to supply about two households. The vote came despite livid objections from Imperial County farmers and environmental groups, who questioned why such a major agreement was being voted on just 24 hours after it was made public, and four days before two newly elected board members are slated to be sworn in to the five-member panel, replacing outgoing president Jim Hanks and outgoing director Norma Galindo, two of the three backers of the agreement on Tuesday…

“Most of us heard about this four-way deal for the first time through the news media Monday afternoon …. The omission of public input borders on a violation of human rights when dealing with something essential to living like water,” said Jose Flores, research and advocacy specialist at Comite Civico del Valle, a nonprofit community advocacy group, who denounced it as a “half-baked deal.”


But director JB Hamby, agreeing with a majority of the board and the district’s general manager and water director said, “there is no down side” to the agreement with the U.S. Department of Interior, the California Natural Resources Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District because while it does not bind the district to cuts, it guarantees critical federal support if cuts are implemented. The agreement also would release IID from liability for wind-borne pesticides and other toxics contained in exposed lake bed, and loss of habitat for endangered birds and other species. Instead the state of California would absorb that risk. In exchange, IID agreed to guarantee state contractors long-sought access to its lands to construct restoration projects, and to provide up to 100,000 acre-feet from New River supply, not Colorado River supply. Outgoing president Hanks said the agreement guarantees up-front for the first time in decades of cuts that federal and state officials will pay for impacts to the Salton Sea from reduced Colorado River supply. The sea is dependent on runoff from Colorado River water provided to farms along its shores for its continued existence. Since 2003, a series of agreements have diverted large amounts from the farms and the lake to urban areas.

Reclamation selects nine projects to receive $1.69 million to test innovative and new #water treatment technologies: Technologies may increase access to water that was not previously usable

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus in waterbodies, known as nutrient pollution, is a growing problem in Utah and across the country. Nutrients are linked to cyanobacterial growth, including harmful algal blooms, and can lower dissolved-oxygen levels in waterbodies, adversely affecting aquatic life. This pollution comes from a variety of sources, including wastewater treatment plants, nonpoint source pollution from agricultural operations, and residential and municipal stormwater runoff. Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Utah’s economic growth and quality of life, leading to substantial costs to the state and taxpayers if left unaddressed.

Click the link to read the article on the Reclamation website (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation is providing $1.69 million to nine projects that offer innovative and novel water treatment technologies that may make previously unusable water available. The funding is being provided for the recipients to conduct pilot testing on their proposed technology.

“Reclamation has been supporting utilizing new and novel technologies for water resource development for 120 years,” said Chief Engineer David Raff. “Water treatment technology is evolving rapidly, and these projects can improve and expand the accessibility to previously unusable water, especially for communities with some of the most urgent water needs.”

The projects were selected through a unique, two-stage process. For the first stage, a project description was submitted summarizing a research idea. Reviewers evaluated these ideas against the provided criteria. Those projects selected from the first stage then pitched their idea to a panel of experts through a live presentation and answered the same experts’ questions.

The selected projects are:

Carollo Engineers, Inc.: Pilot Testing of a Novel Energy Efficient Configuration for Carbon Diversion and CEC Removal, $200,000

Carollo Engineers, Inc.: An Innovative Ion Exchange-Based Advanced Treatment (XBAT) Approach for Direct and Indirect Potable Reuse, $199,989

Enspired Solutions LLC: Reductive Defluorination PFAS Destruction Field-scale Pilot Test, $200,000

Hazen and Sawyer: Improving RO Recovery through Optimization of Flux and Pump Usage with Real-Time Sensor Connectivity, Data-driven Modeling, and Automation, $197,294

Hazen and Sawyer: Pilot Scale PFAS Destruction in Membrane Concentrate via Electrochemical Oxidation, $196,916

Orange County Water District: In-Situ Gravity Driven Removal of PFAS During Groundwater Recharge to Protect Drinking Water, $199,430

South Platte Renew: Retrofitting Existing Infrastructure for Sidestream Biological Phosphorus Treatment to Reduce Coagulant Costs and Discharged Salts Associated with Chemical Phosphorus Removal, $100,000

Southern Nevada Water Authority: Assessment of Innovative Dissolved Air Flotation Approaches for Conventional Water Treatment, $200,000

The Research Foundation for The State University of New York – Stony Brook University: Enhancing the Removal of Hydrophilic Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) by Granular Activated Carbon using Hydrophobic Ion-pairing as Pre-treatment, $199,601

Learn more about Reclamation’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program and how it expands access to water by visiting

It’s Time to Drain #LakePowell: The West is in severe #drought. Which is exactly why now is the moment to bypass one of the region’s biggest dams and rewild Glen Canyon — Gizmodo #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Updated Colorado River 4-Panel plot thru Water Year 2022 showing reservoirs, flows, temperatures and precipitation. All trends are in the wrong direction. Since original 2017 plot, conditions have deteriorated significantly. Brad Udall via Twitter:

Click the link to read the article on the Gizmodo website (Peter Deneen). Here’s an excerpt:

Floyd Dominy. Public Domain

The date is Feb. 9, 1997, and the man responsible for one of the most egregious environmental follies in human history is sitting at a restaurant in Boyce, Virginia, with the leader of the movement seeking to undo his mistake. Of the hundreds of dams Floyd Dominy green lit during his decade running the Bureau of Reclamation, none are as loathed as his crown jewel, the Glen Canyon Dam. In 1963, Dominy erected the 710-foot (216-meter) tall monument to himself out of ego and concrete, deadening the Colorado River just upstream of the Grand Canyon, drowning more than 250 square miles (648 square kilometers) in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and inventing Lake Powell in the middle of a sun-baked desert. After a couple of drinks, Dominy asked his dinner guest, Glen Canyon Institute founder Richard Ingebretsen, for an appraisal of the effort to drain Lake Powell. “It’s pretty serious, Mr. Dominy,” Ingebretsen recalled telling him, holding back the seething discontent of the broad coalition he represented. When Ingebretsen described his hypothetical plan to drill through the twin boreholes bestriding Glen Canyon dam, Dominy replied, “Well, you can’t do that. It is 300 feet of reinforced concrete.” Then Dominy did something extraordinary—he lowered his glasses, pulled out a pen, and diagrammed precisely how he would do it on a cocktail napkin. A stunned Ingebretsen could hardly believe what was happening.

“This has never been done before,” Dominy said. “But I have been thinking about it, and it will work.”

The back of Glen Canyon Dam circa 1964, not long after the reservoir had begun filling up. Here the water level is above dead pool, meaning water can be released via the river outlets, but it is below minimum power pool, so water cannot yet enter the penstocks to generate electricity. Bureau of Reclamation photo.

In the 58 years since Glen Canyon was flooded, memory of what was lost has mostly been forgotten. Submerged beneath the water lies a desert canyon like none other that stretches some 200 miles (322 kilometers). The Colorado River was the wildest river in North America before it was arrested by the Bureau of Reclamation during the frenetic dam-building era last century. But in this section of the river, the current flowed calmly through fern-covered walls. “It was a kind of Eden,” as Elizabeth Kolbert described it in The New Yorker this summer, “more spectacular than the Grand Canyon and, at the same time, more peaceful. It was a fairy-tale maze of side canyons, and side canyons with their own side canyons, each one offering a different marvel.” Hundreds of ephemeral streams and tributaries joined the Colorado River here, each of them achingly abundant with riparian habitat and mind-bending geomorphology, where beavers and fish thrived beneath soaring rainbows of salmon-colored rock arches.

A bend in Glen Canyon of the Colorado River, Grand Canyon, c. 1898. By George Wharton James, 1858—1923 –, Public Domain,

Glen Canyon is a natural wonder that’s been wasting the past six decades as an unnecessary water storage facility for the Bureau of Reclamation. The last time Lake Powell was as low as it is today, Neil Armstrong had yet to set foot on the moon. But the climate crisis and decades of water overuse have sent Powell’s shoreline receding. The telltale bathtub ring of the previous high water mark isn’t the only sign of change; habitats that were swallowed by the reservoir have sprung back to life—baby cottonwood trees, canyons full of frogs and maidenhair ferns, birds, bees, bears, and beavers have reclaimed their old territory…

September 21, 1923, 9:00 a.m. — Colorado River at Lees Ferry. From right bank on line with Klohr’s house and gage house. Old “Dugway” or inclined gage shows to left of gage house. Gage height 11.05′, discharge 27,000 cfs. Lens 16, time =1/25, camera supported. Photo by G.C. Stevens of the USGS. Source: 1921-1937 Surface Water Records File, Colorado R. @ Lees Ferry, Laguna Niguel Federal Records Center, Accession No. 57-78-0006, Box 2 of 2 , Location No. MB053635.

Dominy’s dam, which the former House Interior Committee Chair Mo Udall as well as five-term Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater have called “the biggest mistake in their legislative careers,” killed what was the biological heart of the Colorado River. With more than 79 species of plants, 189 species of birds, and 34 species of mammals, it was an ecological marvel. The canyon was also home to a staggering array of Indigenous sites and artifacts dating back hundreds of years, all of them now underwater. All that was traded away for the longest reservoir in the world, with approximately 2,000 miles of coastline. Unfurled, Lake Powell’s shoreline would stretch from Maine to Florida. Its primary function? To temporarily detain water for metered release to replenish Lake Mead. As Kolbert put it, Dominy built a reservoir for a reservoir. The redundant Glen Canyon Dam harnesses the Colorado River just upstream from Lee’s Ferry, an arbitrary point chosen to delineate “upper basin” states—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming—from “lower basin” states—Arizona, California, and Nevada. Separating the river into two jurisdictions is seen as one of the original sins for the world’s most litigated river. Ingebretsen said Lake Powell was born as a security measure, founded on the distrust between upper and lower basin states.