AURORA | Starting May 1, Aurora residents will be required to cut back on watering outdoor landscaping as the city activates a conservation plan meant to save water during droughts.

City staffers have pushed back on the idea that Aurora is well-positioned for the warmer months as news outlets have reported above-average snowpack figures considering the entirety of the state.

Aurora’s water originates high in the Rockies, in the basins of the Colorado, Arkansas and South Platte rivers. Snowpack data compiled by Aurora Water as of Feb. 13 indicates that, while the areas of the Upper Colorado basin that are of interest to Aurora are about 11% fuller than average, the Arkansas is about 15% less full, while the South Platte is lagging by 33%.

“We’re at 84% across all three of our positions right now,” Greg Baker, public relations manager for Aurora Water, said Thursday. “When you talk about the statewide basis, you hear people saying, you know, Steamboat Springs has fantastic snow. Or Wolf Creek Pass is doing fantastic. That’s great, go down and ski there, but it’s not where our water comes from.”

Snow may continue to fall for months and will begin to melt around April, at which point downstream communities such as Aurora will begin to have a better idea of the amount of water they’ll be able to store.

“We have seen late season snows even up into May that might help us recover,” Baker said. “But we’re not going to gamble on it.”

Aurora’s City Council voted unanimously to impose the lowest level of drought restrictions on Aurora Water customers on Feb. 13. The specific trigger for the restrictions was the determination by Aurora Water that, between the amount of water in the city’s reservoirs and the snowpack, the city only has enough water on hand to meet its needs for 25 to 30 months.

The change means customers will only be allowed to water outdoor landscaping twice a week starting in May. Baker estimated that around 40-45% of the city’s water is used for landscape irrigation each year.

By a margin of 9-1, with Councilmember Angela Lawson dissenting, the council also voted on first reading to change how surcharges on excessive water use are calculated so that residents of multifamily housing developments and commercial customers won’t be unfairly burdened. The charges will also go into effect in May.

For each customer, Baker said the median water use between December and February will be calculated to find a winter-quarter average. That volume of water plus 10% will be used as the baseline for the rest of the year, above which a $1.95 charge will be levied for every 1,000 gallons of water consumed.

Baker said the restrictions are meant to cut down on the city’s water use by at least 20%.

“We understand the sentiment and the attachment people have to their lawns,” Baker said. “But the reality is turf isn’t always an appropriate plant choice in a high mountain desert that gets 15 inches of precipitation a year.”

He said homeowners’ associations are legally prohibited from penalizing members if their lawns become discolored from a lack of water and that the city is educating those entities on the rules. Baker also said less frequent watering can also help grass develop deeper root systems and become more resilient.

Information about free classes, cash rebates and other incentives for drought-resistant landscaping offered by the city can be found at

Join the Conversation


  1. And the city has already approved how many more homes yet to be built?

    Who trusts that Aurora Water’s long-term forecasting isn’t biased towards more development?

    Healthy skepticism warranted.

  2. Just like Las Vegas and the Phoenix Valley, Aurora can’t build new houses fast enough with little existing infrastructure, thus penalizing unfairly the oldtimers who have been living here for decades. We are going to see more and more dead trees and dead lawns, turning into weed infested eyesores. It’s not just the smaller snowpack, its the lousy growth management by the city. Why is that???

    How much water is being wasted on golf courses in this city anyway? Don’t give us the golf course recycled water excuse, because our new billions of dollars Prairie Waters project has Aurora reclaiming S Platte river water after Denver has dumped their sewage treated water back into the river. That’s recycled water also. It all counts.

  3. People are sounding off over the wrong thing. Lawns are useless and bad for the environment.

    If you wanted to dump water on the ground for no reason then you should be penalized for it.

    Grow a garden or use the space for something useful. Something to justify the excuse to use so much water.

  4. Mr. Baker, check ANY definition of what a desert is. It is always 10 inches of rain or less to define an area as a desert. Calling an area that gets AT LEAST 15 inches of rain a year a desert alludes to your use of hyperbole to scare water customers. Needlessly.

  5. Although Aurora has some of the best tasting water in the USA, I have had little faith in Marshall Brown and the water department since he made current citizens pay upfront for the Prairie Water project that was to provide future water for future residents.

    I see the scenario of scaring us all to use less water while increasing rates to ascertain that total water revenues remain the same this year so to meet current demands of cash outflow of the department. This, to me, is a scare tactic, to keep the citizens in line and continue to believe the water department is your friend. The Council seems to think this way.

    The water department is not your friend and Marshall Brown has always ran it as a business not as a governmental agency.

    Did you know that the water department is economically almost as big as the entire Aurora City General Fund. Now that’s big. Look it up in the online financials, I haven’t currently but I have in the past.

    Why does a water department need a PR agent and department? It’s a business! Business tries to get the most money for their products while keeping their customers happy. Right? Do you believe that if the mountains overall get tremendous snowfall that in some places it’s less than others that the PR man wants us to believe. Is it not all just PR? Doesn’t snow and water run downhill to and through rivers.

    We will know who was right and wrong by the middle of June. What do we do, as citizens if we discover that there is a lot of water during the first part of summer?

    I do hope others start to question how our water department operates as time goes on.

  6. This is fine with me. I am SO ready to ditch our “lawn”. The sun burns the same spots every year. It’s time for another tree, drought resistant flowers and bushes…anything but grass!

    1. We appreciate grass lawns. They look wonderful and are so useful.
      Wish that we could find other grasses which use less water.

      We allowed a clover patch to spread and it is also a nice source of pollen for bees.
      If we can find water-savingrasses, we will spread their seeds and hopefully the lawn will stilloook nice and use less water.

  7. “Baker said the median water use between December and February will be calculated.”
    This city and their dumbness is never ending. This formula is worthless and is one that discriminates against a small one- or two-person family with the same size lot trying to maintain their outside lawns as someone with eight in the family. So the city is penalizing the less water usage citizen in the winter for not using much water. They should be getting a rebate if anything for not using. Do you see any of that happening?
    Then when the build- baby- build thinking continues again the existing residents are expected to believe the planning dept has a clue. Well they don’t and examples of that thinking is clearly showing! Water pressure is at about the minimum it can be set to in the north Aurora neighborhoods, while the newer areas are left maintaining 20 to 30 psi more. The northern areas have added nothing but tons of apartments all needing water. So does the city add any more lines as housing have doubled? Please! Wait till these older beautiful trees being drought stressed and become sick. Who’s going to pay for that as they have to be sawed down, the city? Is the city prepared to deal with thousands of dead trees and so much new dirt from dead lawns? Are you kidding me?

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