NewsLocal News


Switch to native grasses estimated to save millions of gallons of water in Littleton

Project plants native prairie grasses in field
Switch to native grasses estimated to save millions of gallons of water in Littleton
Posted at 7:07 PM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2023-11-08 11:18:14-05

LITTLETON, Colo. — At first glance of a field in Littleton, it looks like three acres of dirt. When looking a little closer, it becomes clear — there's more to the story.

Mixed into the dirt are countless seeds, which will become the native grasses that once grew in the field.

“The kind of brown, prairie grass you see out in the plains a lot of the time," said Luc Hatlestad of Arapahoe County. “Once it's in and irrigated enough to grow, it will require no irrigation after that.”

The native prairie grass is more water friendly than the Kentucky bluegrass that previously occupied the area. Kentucky bluegrass is typical lawn grass, which was originally planted for mostly cosmetic reasons, according to Hatlestad.

“Once the roots [of the native prairie grass] are established, they grow deep enough that they pull water up from underneath. So, that's how they sustain themselves," said Hatlestad.

Hatlestad said the project will save Arapahoe County a significant amount of water every year.

"We are going to save 1.5 million gallons of water every year, just in sprinkling this little patch of land," Hatlestad said. "It actually is enough water to supply a family of four for 15 years."

Denver Water has been supplying the City of Littleton with water for decades. The South Platte River Basin and tributaries of the Colorado River are where Denver Water collects the resource. According to Denver Water, the drought across the West and the problems associated with the Colorado River can affect the water supply for their Front Range customers.

“There's a lot of need right now to save water for the Colorado River... A lot of it's just extended overuse of the supplies that we have and have stored in the Colorado River," said Austin Krcmarik with Denver Water. "We're looking for new strategies as the overall volume of the river shrinks.”

Denver Water has not worked too much in the realm of landscape transformation and water savings from those projects, according to Krcmarik.

“We really need to figure out new strategies outside of what we've traditionally done on how we can play our part in making the landscapes work for us and save water," said Krcmarik. “For spaces that aren't really being used for active recreation, does something like a native grass conversion makes sense?"

The turf conversion is part of a larger sustainability project in Arapahoe County. Since 2019, the goal has been to reduce landscape water usage by 13% over the next five to 10 years.

“Imagine what you could do at your own home, what other cities could do with their their public areas. It's something to think about. And you know, it's something that we all should be trying to pitch in on," said Hatlestad.

The project is funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Work on the project was started late last year, and will last into the fall of this year.