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waterwise The official publication of Colorado WaterWise

Unpredictable in Colorado

The Voice of the Colorado Water Conservation Community

in this issue... Pg. 3 Measuring Impacts of Conservation Pg. 5 GreenCO: New Resources Pg. 9 An Interview with Taryn Finnessey Pg. 11 What’s going on in the Colorado Legislature?

Platinum Member

Summer 2013

s r o t i d e e h t From The looming drought that seemed to be upon us at the beginning of March has been held at bay for now. Well-timed, wet snows and spring showers have improved many communities’ water supply and reduced demand. Wild weather and extreme temperature swings are becoming the norm. Drought can be devastating for all, so how we talk about it and how it is perceived by the public is very important. Yes, we need the consumer to pay attention, but we also need to be careful about crying wolf or scaring off tourism, or potential businesses from locating in Colorado. This issue’s theme is about the economic impact that drought has had on some Colorado industries. The article Drought Messaging addresses some of the issues surrounding the “D” word. Xeriscape has gone full circle to ‘Zeroscape’ to ‘water wise’ landscaping and back to xeriscape. As the water conservation community shapes their message, we need to be sensitive to the perception we create. An interview with Taryn Finnessey, Drought and Climate Change Technical Specialist, reveals her belief that future technologies have the greatest conservation potential; some of those technologies are touched upon in the review of Glennon’s book Unquenchable. Read about the great successes during the past session in the Colorado legislature as well as with CRC’s Slow the Flow program. Find out what sod growers are doing to weather the vagaries of Colorado’s weather and find out what’s new in water conservation this summer. Don’t forget to register for the 4th Annual Water Conservation Summit: October 25, in Denver. Go online to register or sponsor www. .

Kim Frick Reach the editors at: Ruth Quade Kim Frick: Ruth Quade: Leslie Martien Leslie Martien: Colorado WaterWise Ongoing Meetings Colorado WaterWise Board Meetings Second Thursdays, 10 a.m.-noon RMSAWWA Water Conservation Committee Meetings Second Monday of each month from 10:30-11:30

WaterWise is the official publication of Colorado WaterWise and is published four times a year (Mar, Jun, Sep, and Dec). Articles are due one month before the newsletter comes out. Officers: Co-chairs: Lyle Whitney-Aurora & Frank Kinder-Colorado Springs Utilities Co-secretaries Drew Beckwith-Western Resource Advocates & Alyssa QuinnPlatte Canyon Co-treasurers: Sarah Fleury-Eagle River & Ruth Quade-Greeley Board Members: The officers above and Becky FedakBrendle Group; Susan Beckman-Colorado Citizens; Dan Stellar-Center for ReSource Conservation; Alyssa Quinn-Platte Canyon, Amy Conklin-Barr Lake; Russ Sands-Boulder; Lucas Mouttet-Fort Collins; Lindsay Weber-Denver Water Newsletter Committee: Editors, Kim Frick, Leslie Martien & Ruth Quade Design: Rob Sherman Advertising Sales: Ruth Quade, Ruth. To submit a story topic, email Kim Frick at WaterWise articles may be reproduced in other publications with credit given to the author and ColordoWaterWise. Any advertisement of or reference to a product or service is not intended as an endorsement. This newsletter is intended to spark dialogue about various issues concerning water conservation in Colorado. The viewpoints of the authors are not necessarily those of the Colorado WaterWise.

Colorado WaterWise Major Sponsors

Measuring the Impact of Our Water Conservation Programs By Morgan Zeliff and Dan Stellar, Center for ReSource Conservation Despite the growth in water conservation programs in Colorado during the past 10-20 years, there is still an important outstanding question for the municipalities and other stakeholders such as water customers and funding agencies: Are these programs effectively reducing water use? Beginning in 2012 the Center for ReSource Conservation (CRC) began to try to answer this question. With the support of 10 municipal partners the CRC gathered the data necessary to measure and evaluate the impact of their largest water conservation program, Slow the Flow Colorado (STF). STF is a sprinkler inspection program that provides customized, pragmatic, advice and one-on-one education to homeowners and property managers. Since its inception in 2003 this program has reached over 10,000 Colorado residents from over 25 different municipalities across the Front Range. The main question that the CRC hoped to answer during its pilot impact analysis was: How much water does STF save its participants (if any)? More specifically, the CRC devised a methodology to estimate change in weather-normalized outdoor water usage, in gallons, for individual households that participated in the STF program. Other factors, beyond weather, that may have contributed to water usage change, were not evaluated in this analysis, but will be analyzed in future work. The data used by the CRC in their analysis included approximately 1,800 unique, monthly, household water records from the two years prior to and the two years post audit. Geographic extent of the sample group included participants from as far east as Aurora, as far south as Castle Pines, as far west as Boulder and as far north as Lafayette. Monthly household water meter data (in gallons) was used to calculate total annual use, average monthly indoor use (average of January, February, and December use) and total annual outdoor use (calculated as the difference between the total annual use and the average monthly indoor use multiplied by 12). Regionally dispersed precipitation (P) and evapotranspiration (ET) data were used to calculate the ET requirement of blue grass, in inches, for May through September, at the height of the watering season. Figure 1 displays the calculated ET requirement for all years included in the analysis (2005-2012). This chart shows that 2009 had the lowest ET requirement while 2012 had the highest ET requirement. Measured landscape size for both turf and shrub space, in square feet, were used along with the climate data, to calculate the water need of the landscapes during the irrigation season, in gallons. Outdoor water use was compared to various parameters, such as the outdoor water WaterWise


Summer 2013 Spring 2011

Figure 1

use above or below the outdoor water requirement, both in raw gallons and as a ratio. This application ratio represented the percent difference between the outdoor water used and the amount of water needed by the unique landscape based on size, landscape type, and climate. In order to determine the water savings the CRC calculated a projected outdoor water use and compared it directly to actual water used. Results of the analysis showed that STF was positive for a majority of its participants in the sample group. On average, outdoor water use decreased from a pre-audit average of 104,000 gal (standard deviation (Ďƒ) = 64,000) to 93,000 gal (Ďƒ = 58,000). The large standard deviation indicates that there is considerable variability in individual participant’s outdoor water use. Future work will seek to understand the reasons for this variability as well as compare STF participant water use to that of a control group.

Figure 2

This is an important finding; however it does not take into consideration variability in the climate and therefore can only serve as an approximation of change in outdoor water use resulting from the audits. Looking further at the data however, the positive trends continued when results took climate into account. For example, Figure 2 shows that the average annual outdoor water use, relative to the ET requirement of the landscape decreased between pre and post audit years. This chart highlights the finding that participants were over-watering less in the years following the audit than they were prior to the audit. It also highlights that the average participant in the program was overwatering by many thousands of gallons, even after the audit.

Figure 3

Furthermore, our evaluation of water savings, which accounts for weather, showed that the mean household savings were approximately 7,500 gal in the first year following the audit, and 6,900 gal in the second year following the audit (Figure 3). These results point to the successes of the program at helping the average participant reduce their outdoor water use. WaterWise


Spring 20112013 Summer

GreenCO’s New Fact Sheets and Videos are released By Brenda O’Brien, GreenCO Project Manager Green Industries of Colorado (GreenCO), is pleased to announce the launch of a series of education outreach materials designed to inform Colorado residents on how to care for their yards and plants, while conserving water. The development of these materials was made possible through a Water Efficiency Grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The series includes four informational “how-to” videos featuring key topics from GreenCO members who are experts in various landscape fields, and five fact sheets covering practical tips on planning and maintaining yards and properties using wise-water practices. GreenCO’s scientific Best Management Practices (BMPs) were used as the foundation for this series to convey specific outdoor water conservation messages, in layman terms, which are essential to train the public to use less water, while insuring the overall health and value of the landscape in both wet and dry years. GreenCO encourages you to disseminate this information to your customers to help educate the general public, and others, on outdoor water use efficiency. GreenCO is also extending a co-branding option for those who wish to add their logo to the fact sheets. If you would like take advantage of this feature, please email your request to and include your organization’s high resolution logo. Informational “How-To” Videos: 1. Helping Your Yard Weather Drought Conditions - xsG8YsTfW7c 2. Xeriscape is a System, Not a Garden - 3. Sprinkler Tips to Save Water - 4. Protecting Your Trees In A Drought - Educational Fact Sheets: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Help Your Yard Survive the Drought How Your Sprinkler System Can Save Water and Money Water Conserving Tips or HOAs and Large Commercial Properties Xeriscape is Not a Garden, It’s a System When and How to Water Your Yard

Materials are located on GreenCO’s website at: resources.html. WaterWise


The Green lndustries of Colorado is an alliance of seven trade associations representing all facets of the horticulture and landscape industries. GreenCO members are committed to water conservation and industry-wide best management practices as a way of doing business. We provide expert advice on how to select and properly care for plants and landscapes. Colorado’s green industry contributes more than $2 billion to Colorado’s economy and provides nearly 40,000 jobs. Read our economic impact study. GreenCO member associations • Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado • Colorado Association of Lawn Care Professionals • Colorado Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects • Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association • Garden Centers of Colorado • lnternational Society of Arboriculture, Rocky Mountain Chapter • Rocky Mountain Sod Growers Association Spring 2011

Update on the Agricultural Drought in Colorado By Reagan Waskom, Director of Colorado Water Institute Agricultural producers in much of Colorado continue facing significant moisture deficits that began in the southern part of the state in 2011. In 2012, over 50 percent of Colorado was in exceptional (D4) or extreme (D3) drought, and the current US Drought Monitor continues to show drought conditions persisting across Colorado. As of May 2013, drought is occurring across the plains and western half of the United States and continues to impact crop and livestock production. More than 1,180 counties in the U.S. so far have been designated as disaster areas for the 2013 crop season, including 286 counties contiguous with primary drought counties. The drought had a significant impact on irrigated lands across the state in 2012. With snowpack dramatically below normal levels, many producers with irrigated lands experienced a greater impact than expected compared to previous years. A total of 1,350 farms had fields that reported prevented planting of a commodity in 2012. Affected, nonirrigated cropland totaled 47,712 acres while affected irrigated cropland totaled 76,731 acres. The total prevented acres for the state during 2012 was 124,443 acres. For 2013 irrigation supplies are looking better in the S. Platte, Yampa, and Colorado Basins, while the San Luis Valley, Arkansas and southeast Colorado will remain water short, causing producers to forgo planting some acres to irrigated crops. As this article is under preparation, crop development in Colorado is running about two to three weeks behind normal due to cooler than normal spring conditions, followed by delays in planting in the northern half of the state due to wet soil conditions. Highly variable soil moisture supplies, ranging from very short to adequate, exist in most growing areas with the dividing line running somewhere along the I-70 corridor. Final crop yields will be largely determined by the combination of moisture and temperature conditions as the summer progresses. Winter wheat production in Colorado, based on conditions as of May 1, 2013, is forecast at 62 million bushels according to the Colorado Agricultural Statistics Service. This forecast is 16 percent below last year’s production of 74 million bushels and 21 percent below the 78 million bushel crop produced in 2011. Although slightly improved from last week, the winter wheat condition rating remains mostly fair to very poor. This year’s wheat crop was planted last fall under mostly dry, unfavorable conditions, resulting in thin and variable stands going into winter dormancy. Following a dry, mild winter, dry and cool conditions continued well into early spring forcing dryland farmers in the southeastern Colorado to abandon much of their seeded acreage. It is expected that producers in southern Colorado will rely heavily on crop insurance to provide income stability. WaterWise


Summer 2013 Spring 2011

Livestock producers have been hit especially hard by dry conditions over the past three growing seasons, impacting both hay and pasture production, and thus animal carrying capacity. Many southern Colorado ranchers have been compelled to sell breeding stock as it is not profitable to carry them without adequate native range and pasture. The poor condition of pasture and range in the state has also led to more shipments of hay into Colorado from other states. Last July, Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack announced that because of the current severe drought, all counties with a drought level of D0 or higher, as measured by the US Drought Monitor, were approved for emergency Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) haying and grazing outside of the primary nesting season. As a departure from the norm, participants were allowed to sell hay harvested under this authority. The final count of counties in Colorado approved for emergency haying or grazing or both stood at 64. Currently, Colorado has 12,413 CRP contracts on 6,093 farms across the state. The land under CRP totals 2,175,942 acres.

CSU was recently awarded a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant for a project entitled, “Decision Support Tools, Drought Tolerance, and Innovative Soil and Water Management Strategies to Adapt Semi-arid Irrigated Cropping Systems to Drought.� The purpose of the project is to demonstrate soil, crop, and water management practices that improve the resiliency of irrigated cropping systems in the Central Great Plains to drought and improve water use efficiency. Farmerfriendly decision support tools will be developed to enable producers to plan and evaluate water-conserving practices into site and management-specific approaches while considering the effects of drought and climate change. The project will get underway in the summer of 2013.



Spring 20112013 Summer

Book Review

UNQUENCHABLE: America’s Water Crisis and What to do About It Author Robert Glennon By Amy Conklin, Barr Milton Watershed Forum Those of us living in Colorado have heard the saying that whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. What is so remarkable about Unquenchable is that is describes how this quote is, or soon will be, true for all the states, not just Colorado. Robert Glennon’s contention is that United States is entering an era of water reallocation. We have reached a tipping point. The question now is how do we respond? The first part of the book describes the crisis. The second and third parts explore current and potential solutions. He ends with suggestions for concrete actions that will sound very familiar; some realistic, others less so. What will be required, for sure, is strong leadership and a willingness to change our paradigm about water. Among the more interesting parts of the book are the stories that today sound like science fiction, but could be reality within a decade. Of course the Colorado River is showcased, Las Vegas in particular. They have enough money to propose, among other ideas, piping water from the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to Las Vegas, with an initial price tag of $11 billion, and job security for hundreds of water professionals. But it’s not just the West that’s in trouble. The Great Lakes are being affected by our water policies with Lake Superior experiencing the longest period of below-average levels since measurements began in 1918. The City of Atlanta experienced a severe drought in 2007 and has only begun its water fight. Similar examples across the country are explored with the same conclusion; that our water policies must change to meet the realities of the demands on our finite water resources. Among the solutions examined are proposed dams and diversions including Colorado’s own ‘Big Straw’ proposal to bring water from the Green River to the Front Range. Composting toilets are examined with quotes from Ann Coulter and Teddy Roosevelt. Ann Coulter saying that liberals are worried we’re going to run out of something that literally falls from the sky and Teddy Roosevelt lamenting that a civilized society should be able to figure out a better way of disposing of sewage than by putting it in the drinking water. Whatever solutions are implemented, one nugget of truth Glennon brings home is that water policy suffers from a profound discontinuity between science and law. He calls it a surprising riddle. “We can neither make nor destroy it (water), so our supply is fixed; yet it’s exhaustible because, as a shared resource used repeatedly, some uses preclude future reuse.” In Colorado, sitting at the top of the hill, I guess it’s predictable and fitting that we are wrestling intensely with this discontinuity. But, since misery loves company, it’s nice to know we’re not alone.



Summer 2013 Spring 2011


An interview with

Taryn Finnessey

Drought and Climate Change Technical Specialist

By Kim Frick, Tri-Districts WW: Tell us a little about yourself. I am originally from New England, where annual precipitation exceeds 40 inches; however, I have been working on western water issues for more than a decade. WW: How did you get started in the water business? I moved to Colorado after college and interned with Environmental Defense working on Colorado River Delta issues; I liked it so much I decided to get a master’s degree. While in graduate school I became fascinated with the interplay between climate change and water availability, so working on drought issues was a natural fit for my interests. WW: Regarding drought management, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing Colorado? I think that climate change is the biggest challenge facing all water resource management in Colorado and drought is certainly a component of that. WW: What regulatory measures do you think will have the biggest impact on drought management in Colorado? There are very few regulations that affect drought management at the state and local level within Colorado but with each drought event communities become better at identifying their vulnerabilities and improving their resiliency. WaterWise


Spring 2011 Summer 20112013 Summer

Interview with Taryn Finnessey “I have been really lucky thus far in my career to be able to engage in a number of interesting and innovative projects that I believe truly help move Colorado and the West forward. “

WW: What technologies do you think will have the biggest impact on water conservation in Colorado? From a management standpoint I think that the technologies that will have the biggest impact on Colorado water conservation and drought preparedness have yet to be invented. Twenty-five years from now we will look back and wonder how we all made do without things that will be commonplace in 2038. From a consumer standpoint I think that there are lots of water conservation technologies out there already that could have a larger impact if they were utilized more broadly. I also think that as consumers gain a stronger understanding of the climate they live in they will make better decisions on how to allocate limited water resources. WW: What has given you the most satisfaction during your career? I have been really lucky thus far in my career to be able to engage in a number of interesting and innovative projects that I believe truly help move Colorado and the West forward. For me satisfaction comes from doing things that continue to challenge and expand my knowledge base while also having a real benefit for community vitality. WW: Beyond work, what other interests do you have? Passions, goals, missions? I love being outside—biking, swimming, running and skiing are among my favorites activities and I am always up for an adventure. Which is probably why I also love to travel. When I am not gallivanting around I am at home in my kitchen cooking—which can also be quite an adventure! The 5th Annual Colorado WaterWise

Water Conservation Summit Friday, October 25, 2013 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Denver, Colorado Support • Participate • Network A workshop featuring the best water conservation practices in Colorado.

$150: Early Bird Member Rate $200: Member Rate after August 26 $200: Early Bird Non-Member Rate $275: Non-Member Rate after August 26

Register at



To sponsor this event, contact

Spring 2011 Summer 20112013 Summer

Legislative Watch By Drew Beckwith, Western Resource Advocates Our state legislature wrapped up its 2012-13 session in early May and while its main focus was more on social issues (civil unions and gun control) with a little bit of marijuana tossed in, we did see several water efficiency oriented bills pass out the capital building. The specter of another major summer drought loomed large throughout much of the session, but did not seem to drive the development of any rash bills – fortunately, I think. The majority of this year’s legislative accomplishments on water efficiency originated from the Water Resources Review Committee, even though two of the bills that eventually passed were not actually supported by the full committee itself. One of those was Representative Fischer’s (D, Ft. Collins) bill to ‘Authorize Graywater Use’ (HB131044), succeeding after legislative failures in the previous two years. Graywater is the drain water from showers, bathroom sinks, and clothes washers that can be reused for non-potable purposes, usually close to the point of capture, after undergoing minimal water treatment. The bill authorizes the State’s water quality control commission to set minimum standards for the use of graywater, and then requires local governments to approve its use. Graywater is most likely to be used for outdoor irrigation and potentially toilet flushing in new construction; prior to this bill, Colorado was the only western state that prohibited the use of graywater. Senator Carroll (D, Aurora) succeeded in passing legislation that prohibits homeowners associations (HOA) from enforcing covenants that limit xeriscape, limit drought-tolerant vegetation, or require any amount of turf (S13-183). The bill also provides homeowner protection from HOA disciplinary action for a failure to maintain landscapes if the homeowner is complying with the local water provider’s water use restrictions – for instance, during times of drought. Two other bills that passed this year, both associated with the Water Resources Review Committee, deal with agricultural water efficiency: Senator Brophy’s (R, Wray) S13-075 and Senator Schwartz’s (D, Snowmass) S13-019. For many agricultural water users, a reduction in their water use from implementing water conservation measures can lead to a reduction of their water rights. Hence, water conservation practices are rarely pursued by agricultural users because they don’t want to lose their water. Brophy’s bill seeks to tackle this issue for groundwater pumpers in designated groundwater basins. Schwartz’s bill seeks similar protection for surface water users. Opening the water efficiency market to agricultural users has the potential to save a tremendous amount of water, which in turn could be used to benefit healthy river flows, shore up supplies for municipalities, or any number of other users; irrigated agriculture uses approximately 80% of Colorado’s water. And while the Colorado legislature is not currently in session, keep your eyes open and your ears perked for any new water efficiency bills…a lot of planning happens during the summer and early fall in preparation for next year’s efforts.



Spring 2011 Summer 2013

WaterSense Opens the Door to Multifamily Homes with Revised Specifications By Peter Mayer, Water Demand Management Since the launch of the WaterSense New Homes program in 2009, homes bearing the WaterSense label have been sprouting up in communities across the country -- including Colorado. WaterSense labeled new homes allow residents to enjoy the comforts of home and save water and energy inside and out by using WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures, efficient hot water systems, and low-maintenance, water-smart landscapes. Residents living in a WaterSense labeled home will save water and energy now, pay less for utilities every month, and protect resources for future generations. When compared to traditional homes, WaterSense labeled new homes can save a family of four up to 50,000 gallons of water per year (the equivalent of washing 2,000 loads of laundry), $400 in water bills annually, and as much as $200 per year in energy bills from reducing hot water needs. The New Year brought a new version of EPA’s WaterSense specification for new homes. On January 1, 2013, the revised new home specification (Version 1.1) went into effect: any home pursuing the WaterSense label now needs to meet this revised criteria. In addition to other minor modifications and updates, Version 1.1 includes requirements for products that can now earn the WaterSense label (specifications for these products were not available when the first version of the specifications was issued), adjusts the landscape criteria to require use of the WaterSense Water Budget Tool, and opens the door for individual units in multifamily buildings to earn the WaterSense label. Highlights of Version 1.1 include:

WaterSense, a partnership program sponsored by EPA, seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with waterefficient products, new homes, and services. Since the program’s inception in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save 287 billion gallons of water and more than $4.7 billion in water and energy bills. Visit watersense for more information.

• New apartments or condos can earn the WaterSense label. Units must have independent heating, cooling and hot water systems and builders must ensure that the common areas of these buildings also meet specific indoor and outdoor criteria.

• WaterSense now requires builders of WaterSense labeled homes to use EPA’s Water Budget Tool for landscape design. The tool was one of two landscaping options in the previous version of the specification which most builders used to calculate outdoor water-efficiency requirements. An easy-to-use, interactive version is available on the WaterSense website:

• If an irrigation system with a weather-based irrigation controller is used, the controller must be a WaterSense labeled model. WaterSense labeled controllers act like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water. The irrigation system must also be designed/installed and audited by a professional certified through a WaterSense labeled program.

• Showerheads must be WaterSense labeled models. WaterSense labeled showerheads save homeowners more than 2,300 gallons of water per year. They also save energy from heating less water; a household will save 300 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, or the amount it takes to power its television use for about a year. WaterSense labeled showerheads can save more than $50 per year in utility bills.

To help save water in their communities, local utilities, governments, and municipalities can spread the word about water efficiency and help encourage builders to build to the WaterSense specification and prospective home buyers to purchase WaterSense labeled new homes. To learn more visit: WaterWise


Spring 2011 Summer 2013

Drought from the Sod Growers Perspective By Ed Markam, President of Rocky Mountain Sod Growers and Owner of Green Hills Sod Farm Inc. While recent storms have provided much needed moisture to Colorado, water conservation continues to be a priority. Predicting what will happen from year to year is very difficult for sod farmers. Weather and water availability are significant factors in our success. However, our business is based upon the fundamentals of solid turf management. Proper ground prep, proper 1 irrigation and selecting the most appropriate turf variety for specific environments has been, and will always be, crucial to enhancing the environment while conserving water. Members of Rocky Mountain Sod Growers believe that if you follow current best management practices, on a routine basis, you can have a healthy lawn and conserve water as well. As President of the Rocky Mountain Sod Growers Association (RMSG), I know that all of our members not only provide a product to their customers but expert advice such as how much water to apply, as most individuals tend to overwater their grass. The sod industry as a whole has been challenged for many years. In addition to drought conditions, sod farmers must deal with misinformation that is out in the public. Kentucky bluegrass continues to be an excellent selection for people who wish to have turf which has been scientifically proven to protect itself through drought conditions. Green Hills Sod Farm ran out of water on September 1, 2012. Since that time we’ve operated only with the water that Mother Nature has supplied. We’ve not yet started our pumps as of May 10, 2013. That means for 8.5 months our grass has received no additional watering, and it still looks great. However, we are always looking for different turf options what would work in our Colorado climate. Drought conditions have a major impact on the Green Industry as a whole. When water providers prohibit landscape planting it hurts everybody --often resulting in lay-offs. Some businesses may be forced to close. We’ve remained in business because most people understand that grass enhances the environment, it increases property values and it provides areas for people to relax and play. The majority of people living in the state appreciate grass in the landscape. Visit the RMSG official website at



Spring 20112013 Summer

“You Say Zero, I say Xeri . . .” By Scott Millard, Ironwood Press I visited the farmer’s market near my home last spring, a fun thing to do on a Saturday morning. Not only do you get to select fresh fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season and flavor, you never know what you’ll come across in the next booth. I’m always hoping I’ll discover some new items or foods that I never knew existed. Selling live garden plants is not new to farmers’ markets, but a large display of perennials and herbs (particularly a massive group of optic yellow lilies) in the center of the market quickly caught my eye. As I walked up to the display, I noticed a handwritten sign promoted the water-saving attributes of a particular group of plants. The sign read: “Great for Zeroscapes!” I had to laugh to myself, since I of course knew the correct name to be Xeriscape, a trademarked term owned by Denver Water. I waited my turn and mentioned to the salesperson that the name was incorrect on her sign, thinking I was doing her a small favor. But I was surprised to hear her response, which went something like this: “Yes, I know the correct term is Xeriscape,” she said pleasantly. “We used to include that on our sign, but none of our customers knew what it meant. When we switched to Zeroscape they understood right away that the plants used less water.” As a long-time writer and editor of books and magazine articles dealing with water-conserving landscaping, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I almost always make a point in my written communications that Xeriscape doesn’t mean “Zeroscape.” I had to shake my head at the irony. Later on I wondered: What do regular folks know about this term and other descriptions we experienced gardeners take for granted? It was an eye-opener to stop and realize that it’s a common mistake all of us can make, in gardening and in just about everything, actually. When one lives with a term or a fact or an acronym for a period of time, it’s simple to lose track of what people outside our little world actually know and understand. The lesson for me? When transferring knowledge of gardening techniques to non-experts maybe we can’t explain things enough, or make it too simple. As we enter into the teeth of this year’s drought, more water customers are going to want to know how to use water efficiently outdoors. We must be diligent and careful as we explain, as we teach. I know I’m going to try to adhere to the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method whenever I can.



“Yes, I know the correct term is Xeriscape,” she said pleasantly. “We used to include that on our sign, but none of our customers knew what it meant. When we switched to Zeroscape they understood right away that the plants used less water.” Spring 2011 Summer 2013

Drought Messaging By Lucas Mouttet, Fort Collins Utilities Is “drought” a word to throw around lightly? Since 2002, many groups have taken on the burden of consistently reminding Colorado citizens about the reality of living in a semi-arid desert here on the Front Range. Because of this, residents are familiar with the term “drought” though they may not understand how it connects to the water flowing through their faucets and sprinkler systems. The term comes up every year, even when we’re not in a drought, which may give residents a feeling that drought is a chronic, not acute, situation. This may lessen the impact of water providers’ messaging during an actual drought when it comes. In addition, there are many other reasons why water providers may face water shortages. Utilities may be short on water because of distribution, storage, or treatment issues. Or they may be waiting for reservoirs to fill after the drought has ended. When the public is bombarded with drought messaging, it makes it harder for water utilities to tell a more nuanced story; especially when precipitation does start to fall from the sky again and they perceive the drought to be over. It’s no surprise that water (and energy) utilities have spent many years being “silent” providers of services, trying to raise as little attention as possible. However, this is certainly changing with promotion of conservation and through pioneering groups working on educating citizens about water resources. To truly get citizens and businesses to join in the effort of battling water shortages, it takes education about why it’s important to reduce water use, tools to reach the goal, and feedback from peers, which this is something they should be doing. Pulling all this off can be fairly difficult, which may be why we default to calling it a drought and relying on the public to take it from there. Hopefully we can find new ways to accurately describe our complex supply and demand systems for future “drought” years!

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Spring 20112013 Summer


Conservation News

Updates By Laurie D’Audney, Fort Collins Utilities

Alliance for Water Efficiency (

• AWE is working with members of Congress to make water efficiency rebates tax exempt. Energy efficiency rebates have been tax exempt in the IRS code for 20 years. • The 2013 Business Guide showcases water efficient products and services, listing manufacturers, distributors, consulting firms and other companies focused on the business of water efficiency. Download it from AWE’s website. • AWE launched a nationwide Never Waste campaign. Check out the website at www.NeverWaste. org for tips to help reduce water waste, a water calculator and Never Waste water bottles available for purchase.


Mayor’s Water Challenge (

• The 2nd annual Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation took place in April. Sponsored by the Wyland Foundation, it’s a friendly competition between cities across the nation to see who can be the most water wise. Based on population, Denver ranked number one for 600,000 and over; Fort Collins came in second for 100,000-2999,000; Greeley ended fifth for 30,000-99,000.

Energy Efficiency Business

Coalition (www. • The Colorado Energy Efficiency 2012 State of the State report characterizes utility programs and their performance, and looks forward at opportunities to improve facilities and infrastructure in Colorado. http://


Water Smart Innovations Conference

(www.watersmartinnovations. com) • Registration is open for the 2013 Water Smart Innovations Conference to be held Oct. 1-4 in Las Vegas.

CO Alliance for Environmental Education (

• CAEE presents annual awards to honor and celebrate exceptional environmental education programs. The CU-Boulder Office of University Outreach’s Learn More about Climate program earned the government award category. Congratulations to Curry Rosato.

Summer Spring 20112013

Colorado WaterWise - Summer 2013  

Colorado WaterWise publishes a newsletter each quarter to update members and others interested in conservation on statewide water conservati...

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