Water features have value but rules are changing Email
Written by Matt Hiner   
Tuesday, May 09, 2023 12:00 AM

Colorado Green Now

Ornamental water features have been a part of landscaping for centuries, adding beauty and tranquility to any outdoor space. From grand fountains in public spaces to backyard ponds and waterfalls, these features are not only pleasing to the eye, but also bring a myriad of ecological, environmental and health benefits. 

Water features create habitats for a wide range of plant and animal species. The plants and algae that grow in and around the water, provide food and shelter for insects, birds, and other small animals. Fish and other aquatic animals can live in the water feature, adding to its ecological diversity. 

One of the more notable benefits of ornamental water features is their ability to naturally purify the air. Negative ions are molecules that contain an extra electron, giving them a negative charge. Moving water releases negative ions as it flows. These negative ions are attracted to and bind with positively charged pollutants in the air such as dust, bacteria, and allergens. Once these pollutants are bound to negative ions, they become too heavy to remain in the air and drop to the ground, effectively removing them from the air we breathe.  

Additionally, ornamental water features also have a positive impact on our mental health. The sound of water can induce a meditative state, slowing down the heart rate and breathing adding benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety, improving focus and concentration, as well as the ability to increase relaxation and mood.  

Stay current with changes 

Despite their benefits, back on August 8th, 2022, the Aurora City Council approved a few amendments to the ordinance enacting section 138-191 of the city code pertaining to the use of turf and ornamental water features. 

These changes came in an effort to reduce the impact of water use with the growing population and development demands in Aurora and apply to all development and redevelopment within the city. Though most changes focus on the use of turf grass, some changes prohibit the use of water in all public and private exterior ornamental water features and ponds. 

The Public Relations Manager for Aurora Water, Greg Baker stated the city uses about 16-18 billion gallons of water per year. About 50% of that water is for outdoor use, which cannot be treated and reused. 

According to the study done by Colorado State University, The Hidden Value of Landscapes: Implications for Drought Planning, “More than 60% of naturally flowing water leaves the state of Colorado and is consumed by downstream users. Of the approximately 40% of water which remains, our landscapes only use approximately 3% of all water consumed in Colorado. This 3% includes water used for residential and commercial landscapes as well as parks, sports complexes, golf courses, etc.  

Shane Hemphill, co-owner of Art of the Yard headquartered in Littleton with a primary focus on water features addressed the Aurora city council before the amendment was approved. He outlined the benefits of water features and expressed his concerns on the impact this ordinance will have on the environment and beyond,  but says his claims fell on deaf ears and felt their minds were already made up.  

Not mentioned or banned are pools and spas, which could be argued use more water and bring far less benefits from an environmental standpoint. 

The conversation on conserving water continues today with cities like Boulder, Lone Tree, Castle Rock and others looking at Aurora as the example for verbiage to copy into their own local ordinances.  

I think we can all agree, a water-wise landscape is the right thing to do, but the lack of data or facts to show that ornamental water features as a problem is moving the needle in the wrong direction and could have negative effects. 

2024 ALCC Platinum Sponsors