Water conservation was a primary component of Colorado’s first-ever state water plan in 2015, and it stands to be even more important as the state prepares its second iteration of the plan later this year. Landscape architects and allied professions have a key role in matching water use to available supplies, especially given the impacts of climate change and recent droughts.
In the 2015 Colorado Water Plan (CWP) the state set an objective that “75 percent of Coloradoans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving actions into land-use planning” by 2025, but it has been up to local counties, cities, and towns to determine which water-saving actions can be integrated in their development process. Landscape architects can help to develop and design water conservation strategies and now is the time to steer the CWP update in that positive direction.
Western states face new struggles to match water use with water supply. Landscape architects are finding a wide range of regulations and incentives to drive landscape water use down and support a growing population.
The 2019 Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan committed each of the Colorado Basin states to reduce the amount of water they take from the Colorado River during drought conditions. The junior water rights holder, Arizona, committed to a 7% reduction in annual water use starting in 2020. That state is home to the second-fastest growing city in the U.S., with a 56.6% increase in population since the last census: Buckeye, AZ. This is one of several dynamics that are impacting water policies in the Colorado Basin states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah.
To reduce water use states are turning to the remaining area of conservation potential: water that is consumed in urban landscapes. In past years, urban water use per capita was reduced through promotion of low-flow bathroom fixtures and water-wise clothes washers that have been replacing old models. A sampling of many approaches that Western cities and counties are applying to meet their water conservation goals follows.