Today was the big day. For most Front Range cities, it marked the first day of mandatory outdoor watering restrictions. The City of Fort Collins, Denver Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, The City of Aurora and The City of Thornton, among others, have limited outdoor watering this summer to two days per week.
Why are we in restrictions?
In most Front Range communities, households use almost half of their total yearly water use to water their landscapes. That’s a lot of water. Where does that water come from? The vast majority of it comes from runoff collected from melting snowpack on Colorado’s Western Slope. When the snow melts, the water providers collect the water, pump it through the mountains and store it in reservoirs for communities to use.
If you’ve been watching the snowpack reports, you’ll know that the situation is dismal. There’s hardly any snow in the mountains to melt this spring. According to the Colorado Climate Center, most northern and central Colorado mountains have only collected 30% of the snow they normally have. April is the last month they can collect snow, so there’s not much hope the situation will improve this year.
Unfortunately, this is the second winter in a row of low snowpack. Without enough snow, most communities have to safeguard their water supplies for the important uses, like drinking, bathing and flushing toilets. That means the landscape is where we all have to cut back.
Figure out the rules
The first step in preparing for water restrictions is to figure out how you can water this summer. Here are some links for several Front Range communities. Note which days you can water, what type of watering is restricted and what type of supplemental watering you are allowed to do.
What’s going to happen to your yard?
Water restrictions can be concerning. We all want to have a nice-looking yard we can use and enjoy. Most of us are used to watering around three times per week (or more) to keep our yards attractive. Two days per week doesn’t sound good.
Does that mean things are going to die? Not necessarily. It really depends on the weather. During cool periods, and especially if we get some rain, you may not notice any difference from normal years. If we experience hot, dry weather, you may see some brown spots in your lawn.
If the hot, dry periods are prolonged, you grass may turn brown. However, realize that most brown lawns are simply dormant, not dead. They will recover when cool, wet weather (or sufficient watering from your sprinklers when we come out of restrictions) returns.
Most trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers can tolerate two watering days just fine. If they are high water use plants, or plants that have been under stress from disease, insects or soil problems, you will notice impacts.
Be Proactive in Caring for Your Landscape
It’s important to take some extra care this spring to prepare your landscape to be as resilient as possible. My opinion is that lawn and garden products are not the primary answer. The answer will be smart management techniques, used at the right time. I’ll be posting tips to help you navigate this spring.
Think about making smart long-term changes
If you have parts of your yard that end up not being quite as resilient as you had hoped, consider transitioning those areas to a landscape that requires less water. The homeowners that I’ve talked to that already have water-wise landscapes aren’t concerned at all about water restrictions. They normally water their landscapes two days per week, or less.
Our state is full of demonstration gardens, classes, expert advice and other resources to help you make long term changes. Check with your water provider to see what resources they offer in your community.
As mentioned above, keep an eye on my blog. I’ll do my best to help you figure out what to do at the right time. After all, that’s what Colorado Yard Care is all about.