Colorado Water Conservation Board Email
Written by Russ Sands & Jenna Battson   
Monday, May 20, 2024 12:00 AM

Colorado Green NowColorado Water Conservation Board releases landscape transformation report

Water savings are critical to helping reduce Colorado’s potential municipal water gap of up to 740,000 acre-feet annually through 2050. Finding ways to reduce this gap is at the heart of the Colorado Water Plan and its focus on Transformative Landscape Change. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is addressing how and why it’s important to transform landscapes through its year-long Urban Landscape Conservation Task Force initiative.

The diverse 21-member task force dug into the complex subject of landscape transformation, culminating in a final report that is available online at While the task force noted multiple reasons beyond water savings to promote landscape change, it also highlighted that water use within communities often represents a sizable percentage of a city’s water use. The task force promoted nonfunctional turf removal and other water conservation tools, including water budgets, tiered rate structures that incentivize low-water-use landscapes, land use codes and increased education and outreach.

While municipal water use is only 7 percent of state water use, and the outdoor component is likely 3 percent, the actual amount of water used to irrigate nonfunctional turf is not fully known. State estimates assume nonfunctional turf likely accounts for less than 1 percent of state water use. An initial analysis estimated there may be 20,000 acre-feet of water savings potential, but more research is needed.

To better understand the amount of turf in Colorado, the potential water savings and the cost of turf removal, CWCB collaborated with BBC Research and Consulting to release an Exploratory Turf Analysis in 2023. CWCB released an updated 2024 Exploratory Turf Analysis in January. With many unknowns remaining, research will continue to assist in responsible decision-making that can help continue to drive investments in water conservation.

At the same time, the CWCB will continue to learn from the agency’s Turf Replacement Program, which provides funding to eligible entities like water providers. While the program funding does not go to homeowners, HOAs or businesses, many of the municipalities and water providers that participated in the program made rebates available in their communities. After eight months, the available funding for the Turf Replacement Program was fully allocated, and 50 eligible entities helped advance turf replacement efforts through incentive programs and/or site-specific municipal projects. Currently, no additional funding Colorado Water Conservation Board releases landscape transformation report is available for the Turf Replacement Program, but in November 2023, the CWCB Board advanced a proposal the General Assembly will hear this spring that could bring an additional $2 million to the program this fall.

CWCB has been working to advance transformative landscape change and helped accelerate a statewide conversation on these efforts through the November 2022 Landscape Summit.

This work is important, especially in light of a warming climate. The Climate Change in Colorado report released by CWCB and Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center shows Colorado has already warmed by 2 degrees Fahrenheit and can likely expect increasingly hotter and drier conditions. This highlights the need for transformative landscape change because more water will be necessary to sustain trees and plants. Switching to more climate-appropriate, low-water plants will help make Colorado communities more resilient, especially in drought years.

To read the reports and learn more about what CWCB is doing, visit


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