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March 15, 2024

SIGNED! Bipartisan Water Conservation in Landscaping Bill Becomes Law

DENVER, CO – Governor Polis today signed bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Dylan Roberts, D-Frisco, and Reps. Karen McCormick, D-Longmont and Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango that will more efficiently conserve water by prohibiting the use of water intensive non-native turf grass on seldom used areas. 

SB24-005, co-sponsored by Senator Cleave Simpson, R-Alamosa, would promote water-wise landscaping by prohibiting the installation of nonfunctional turf, invasive plant species, and artificial turf in any newly developed commercial, institutional, industrial, and state property. It also applies to other little-used areas like parking lots and medians. This would help the environment not only by saving water, but by reducing reliance on pesticides and gas-powered lawn equipment, while opening up space for native plants that naturally thrive in Colorado’s climate and support our local birds and bees.

“With this law, we're cutting back on unnecessary water usage on nonfunctional turf used in medians, greenways and parking lots,” said McCormick. “Water-wise landscaping conserves our precious water resources and encourages communities to embrace Colorado's natural landscapes. Our law sets us on a path forward to more effectively manage and preserve the water we all rely on.”

“Protecting our limited and threatened water supply is one of the biggest priorities for the communities I represent on the Western Slope,” said Roberts. “As we work to conserve our water resources, it’s essential that we make smart decisions now to prevent overuse in the future. This new law will reduce unnecessary landscape water usage and further position Colorado as a leader in effective water management.”

“Cutting back on the amount of water we use on nonfunctional turf will help us conserve our precious water resources across the state,” said McLachlan. “This law helps us effectively and efficiently manage our water resources by encouraging water-wise landscaping on little-used areas like parking lots and medians. We're stepping up to conserve water while embracing the native plants and species that thrive in Colorado."

Outdoor watering of landscaping uses about half of all municipal water. Much of this is used to grow non-native turf grass, which requires large amounts of water to thrive. While some turf is used for parks, sports fields, and yards, much of it serves no community purpose, such as highway frontages and strips alongside industrial properties. The state has supported turf replacement as a key tool for water conservation, and now this bill focuses on limiting its installation in the first place. 

By transitioning away from non-native turf grass, the bill encourages developers, city planners, and managers to choose plants that thrive in Colorado’s semi-arid climate, as opposed to non-native, water-intensive plants such as Kentucky bluegrass or invasive species.

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