By Saja Hindi
The Denver Post
The Aurora City Council tackled several water issues Monday night, giving the final stamp of approval to the mayor’s proposal that would prohibit cool-weather grass for new golf courses and reduce the amount of grass in new developments.
The City Council had to vote on the proposal again, despite passing it last month, because of a typo in the first reading that required the additional vote. The ordinance aimed at conserving water dictates where and how much “cool-season turf” or grasses, including Kentucky bluegrass and Fescue, can be placed in new developments. Ornamental water features would also be banned.
“As we grow, we cannot continue to grow as we have in the past,” Aurora Water General Manager Marshall Brown said. “As we look forward, we have to become more water efficient primarily in outdoor spaces.”
In addition to eliminating the use of cool-season turf on new golf courses, the ordinance removes turf in residential front yards, curbside or median landscape areas, multifamily and commercial landscape areas that are not active recreation areas and spray irrigation in medians. It restricts using the grasses to 45% or 500 square feet of backyards, whichever is less.
Site plans approved before Jan. 1, 2023, would be exempt from the new rules. Additionally, alleyload areas where small backyard sizes don’t allow for the installation of turf can have either 45% or 500 square feet, whichever is less, of front-yard turf.
The City Council also approved on Monday night a resolution supporting a “water conservation memorandum of understanding” among Colorado River Basin Water providers.
“Over the past twenty years, the Colorado River Basin has experienced severe drought which has led to reduced storage levels in both Lake Powell and Lake Mead to critical levels,” council documents stated. “While many communities have adapted to persistent drought through direct and indirect conservation programs, climate change and the resulting hydrological shifts require all users in the basin to redouble efforts
to conserve water resources.”
In the memorandum, Aurora pledged to continue water conservation programs, introduce a new program to reduce nonfunctional turf by 30% (with a full plan brought forward next year), increase water and recycling programs and collaborate with other water users in the Colorado River Basin.
But agriculture will have to be part of the solution because “we could turn off water in every state in the basin, every municipality, and it wouldn’t address the issue. It’s agriculture,” Councilmember Dustin Zvonek said.
Brown said this is the municipality’s way of leading by example and that there are negotiations underway with the state and other water management programs for agricultural water use efficiencies.
The third water-related measure council approved Monday night on final reading was an ordinance to allow residents to have ducks on their properties in residential areas. It passed, 6-3. Councilmember Curtis Gardner opposed it, citing the City Council’s prior actions Monday night, as did Councilmembers Danielle Jurinsky and Steve Sundberg.
“It’s actually ironic that we are approving this directly after limiting water usage for turf and ornamental water features. … At the end of the day, I don’t care what animals people have on their property,” Gardner said. “That’s not what this is about. To me though, it sends a contradictory message to say you can use them for ducks apparently, but you can’t use them for turf.”
He said he also worried that there aren’t enough code enforcement officers to answer the complaints that come in from neighbors.