Metro District to cut water use by 20% to meet drought restriction requirements

Highlands Ranch has 6,000 irrigation zones

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In response to new drought restrictions put in place by Centennial Water, the Highlands Ranch Metro District announced it will cut outdoor irrigation water consumption by 20%.

On July 6, the Centennial Water & Sanitation District board of directors voted to impose Stage 1 drought restrictions, a step higher than the "drought watch" designation.

The restrictions apply to those living in the Centennial Water service area, which includes the communities of Highlands Ranch and Solstice and the Northern Douglas County Water & Sanitation District.

In a July 11 announcement, officials with the metro district, which is the biggest commercial water user in the community, announced the district would be adapting practices to meet the recommendations made by Centennial Water.

The news release said the metro district strives to set a good example of water conservation year-round and will further enhance its efforts to adjust to the new Stage 1 drought restrictions.

“It’s important for community members to know that our parks remain a top priority and we will strive to keep them as healthy as possible while meeting the expectations for water savings,” said Dirk Ambrose, metro district parks and parkways manager. “Due to the reduction in water consumption, there may be stressed plant material and dry grass, but we still encourage outdoor use and activities.”

Based on Centennial Water’s drought response plan, the metro district announced it will be enacting a 20% overall reduction in irrigation water consumption. Homeowners will see the metro district watering more than the two days per week residents are allotted due to the large amount of property the district maintains.

The large network of irrigation systems, with more than 6,000 zones, makes it impractical to irrigate large sites in a single day. While areas may be watered multiple days per week, the overall amount of water used will be reduced by 20%.

Under the new restrictions, which officially begin July 20, outdoor irrigation for residents will be limited to two days per week in accordance with Centennial Water’s adopted watering schedule. Residential customers with odd-numbered addresses can water on Sundays and Wednesdays; even-numbered addresses can water on Saturdays and Tuesdays.

Besides reducing the overall amount of water used for irrigation, metro district officials said they will turn off all interactive and decorative water features, including the fountains at Civic Green Park. This will reduce water consumption and comply with the drought response plan, according to the news release.

The metro district said it has already implemented many water saving measures. It operates a centrally automated irrigation control system that works in conjunction with weather stations.

In 2022, the metro district appointed a central irrigation coordinator to oversee the entire automated system and to finetune watering programs.

The Metro District has begun to strategically convert areas of parkway bluegrass to plant material that requires substantially less water. It also completes routine, proactive cultural practices — including mowing, aeration, fertilization and weed management — that limit water demand.

While water consumption will be reduced, it’s also important to understand the challenges of maintaining 440 irrigated acres in parks and parkways:

  • High public use and heavily programmed activities in parks result in turf stress and significantly reduce windows to apply water.
  • Metro district’s sprinkler heads are susceptible to vandalism during overnight hours in parks in the summer time and they fall victim to snow plows in the winter months.
  • The parkways' landscape consistently is disturbed and damaged due to utility contractor work and the regular presence of commercial equipment.
  • Sloping terrain, heat from hardscapes — roads, sidewalks, fences etc. — and south-facing landscape contributes to plant stress and increases water use especially in the parkway system.

To read more about Highlands Ranch Metro District’s water conservation practices, visit highlandsranch.org/resources/water-conservation.

To learn more about Stage 1 restrictions, the drought response plan and conservation tips for homeowners, visit Centennial Water’s Drought Resource Center at centennialwater.org/drought.

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