Reducing Water Usage in Boulder
The Water Conservation Program helps city water customers use water more efficiently, eliminate leaks, reduce water costs and support sustainability.
The city partners with Resource Central to offer community members water conservation program elements, including turf removal, Garden-in-a-Box kits, WaterWise Seminars and irrigation audits to help manage outdoor water use. This partnership enables the city to offer its water customers discounts on Resource Central's programs. For more information visit resourcecentral.org.
Did You Know?
Nearly one trillion gallons of water are wasted each year in U.S. homes in preventable ways. The average household leaks almost 10,000 gallons of water per year, or the amount of water it takes to wash 300 loads of laundry.
Many common household leaks are quick to find and easy to fix. In just 10 minutes, you can search your home for leaks that lead to water waste.
Water Efficiency Plan Update
The City of Boulder is currently updating the Water Efficiency Plan (WEP). This plan provides guidance for implementing the city’s Water Conservation Program in a way that is compatible with the city’s water supply system, the Colorado Water Plan, adopted water conservation goals, water resources management strategy, and community values.
In April 2023, we launched an engagement campaign to gather information on how community members use water, value water and where the city should focus its efforts around water conservation. While the questionnaire has closed, we'll be back later this year with what we learned and the updated Water Efficiency Plan.
Find a Water Leak
In the Home
Listen for running water and conduct the food coloring test. Put a few drops of food coloring into the tank at the back of your toilet and let it sit for 10 minutes. If color shows up in the bowl, you have a leak.
Look and listen for drips from the faucets or in the pipes under the sink.
Check for pooling water under pipes and rust around joints and edges.
Look for a dripping showerhead and replace with a new one, if needed.
Turn on the tub, then divert the water to the shower and see if there’s still a lot of water coming from the tub; that could mean the tub spout diverter needs replacing.
Clothes washer or dishwasher
Look for pooling of water under pipe connections, rust or other signs of leakage.
Outside the Home
The City of Boulder provides free irrigation consultations through Resource Central that can help you identify obvious leaks in your irrigation system.
Ensure tight connections with the hose and see if the hose washer need replacing.
Check for broken sprinklers or nozzles spraying in the wrong direction.
How to Fix a Leak
- WaterSense Fix a Leak website has many helpful video links that show how to fix these simple leaks.
- If you cannot find a leak, or are having troubles fixing one, contact a certified plumber.
Outdoor Water Tips
There are many ways to reduce outdoor water use, such as landscaping with plants that don't require much water, creating pollinator habitat and limiting the use of pollutants. Follow these water conservation tips.
Don't turn on the sprinklers too early in the season. Leaving lawns dormant longer will save water, and will not compromise the longevity of your lawn. April is too early to go automatic, plan on programming your sprinkler system to start in May or June. Hand-water trees and plants as needed - trees offer many benefits such as shade and habitat, and are often greatly impacted by drought, so keep an eye on the health of your trees and water them when needed.
Check with your water supplier for water use rules. Watering twice a week will make grass roots grow deeper and allow the grass to last longer without water. Cycling sprinkler system run times can prevent excess water runoff; visual inspections after an initial watering cycle will make this apparent. An example of a better watering schedule is setting each zone to water for five minutes then wait an hour, water for five minutes again, wait one more hour, then water for a final five minutes. This breaks up the 15 minutes of watering into three cycles, allowing the water to have time to absorb into dense and compact soils.
Watering landscapes in the early morning or at night will help reduce water loss. During the daytime heat, less water will be available to plants due to loss from evaporation and wind. Please check your local water provider for current water restrictions, including watering hours.
Watch the weather and adjust watering days and times accordingly. Use soil moisture sensors or rain sensors to automatically adjust watering schedules when it rains. Consider installing a WaterSense Smart Irrigation Controller. Check with your water supplier for potential rebates on irrigation equipment and other opportunities.
Raise lawn mower blades and protect lawns from heat by letting grass grow longer (3 - 3.5 inches). A taller lawn provides shade to the roots and helps retain soil moisture, so your lawn requires less water.
Check to see if your irrigation heads are broken, tilted or not set-up properly by scheduling an irrigation assessment. Sweep driveways and sidewalks with a broom instead of spraying with a hose - but please not down the storm drain or into the street gutter. Use hand-watering, deep root water, or drip irrigation for trees, shrubs, bushes, perennial beds, annual flowers and vegetable gardens. Always use a shut-off nozzle on your hose when watering plants.
Check your sprinkler system monthly for broken sprinkler heads and damaged irrigation lines. Hire a professional to conduct a sprinkler assessment - check with your water supplier, many have low cost or no cost sprinkler assessment programs for their community. A well maintained system will save both money and water.
If possible, delay new lawn installations for a non-drought year and avoid planting during the mid-summer heat. If you've already purchased a water wise garden this year, plant early in the morning or evening in May. Incorporate water wise plants and turf when planning landscape renovations or installations.
Know Your Outdoor Water Allotment
Are you prone to setting your irrigation system at the beginning of each season and then 'forget' about it until it's time to blow it out in the fall? Don't Set It And Forget It!
The city utilizes water budgets for determining how much water each user account is allotted per year for irrigation. Click on the link below the image for more information.
Click to learn how to Understand your water bill
Action at the state level
In June 2022, the Colorado General Assembly passed House Bill 1151 to encourage landscapes that use plants with lower water needs, and to create a program to incentivize the voluntary replacement of irrigated turf.
The next update on the program is expected in July 2023. Learn more on the state's website.
- When and How to Water Your Yard fact sheet from GreenCO explains how to water your yard the right amount
- How Your Sprinkler System Can Save Water fact sheet from GreenCO explains how you can program your irrigation system to be more water efficient and maintain a healthy landscape
- Yard and Garden Tips on Colorado State University Extension's website has great tips and resources for any type of landscape.
- Choose the Right Lawn on Northern Water's website can guide you in identifying what is the best seed for where your lawn is located and how it's used.
Rain Barrels are now legal in Colorado as of August 10, 2016. This House Bill 16-1005, was signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper on May 12, 2016 and outlines the following key requirements:
- Maximum of two rain barrels with a combined capacity of 110 gallons.
- Permitted on single family or small multifamily (less than 4 units) properties.
- Use sealable lid and screens to help prevent mosquito breeding and address water quality concerns.
- Water collected from roofs can only be used for outdoor purposes.
- Untreated rainwater is not safe to drink. Monthly draining is recommended.
- Resource Central Waterwise Gardens in a Box: these kits take the guesswork out of selecting which plants work well together and we even include plant by number maps to help design your new xeriscape. When you remove unused areas of thirsty lawn and replace them with our waterwise gardens you can ultimately reduce the amount of water used on your landscape!
Save Water in the Workplace
The Water Conservation Program partners with the county's Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE) Program to provide commercial customers with FREE water and energy services. At Partners for a Clean Environment, a business sustainability consultant can:
- Conduct a free water assessment at your business
- Identify quick upgrades, such as installing low-flow fixtures
- Connect you with tools, incentives and other resources
- Engage employees in efforts to reduce water use
Visit Partner's for a Clean Environment main webpage at www.pacepartners.com or call 303-786-7223 to learn more.
Audit Your Water Usage
Want to perform a self-evaluation at your property?
- Try the free CII Water Audit Tool.
Work with EnergySmart
EnergySmart helps you:
- Discover low- and no-cost energy-saving opportunities. Schedule a FREE EnergySmart Assessment for your business.
- Upgrade your old or inefficient equipment. With EnergySmart advisors, incentives and utility rebates, energy efficiency upgrades have never been more cost-effective.
Get started saving today:
- Call an expert Energy Advisor at 303-441-1300
- Email: signupBIZ@EnergySmartYES.com
- Visit: www.EnergySmartYES.com
Conservation Tips for Businesses
- Restaurants should only serve water when asked.
- Have your system checked for leaks and get them repaired.
- Teach water awareness to employees.
- Use one glass per employee per day to cut down on dirty dishes.
- Install toilet dams or displacement devices to cut down on the amount of water needed for each flush. Put an inch or two of sand or pebbles in the bottom of a quart or larger container and fill the rest of the container with water. Put the cap on and place the bottle in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanism. The container will save on each flush without impairing the efficiency of the toilet.
- Check your toilets for leaks. Put a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If the coloring begins to appear in the bowl without flushing, you have a leak that should be repaired immediately. Even a small leak can waste thousands of gallons.
- Install low-flow shower heads in shower facilities.
- Use high-efficiency equipment and appliances.
- Don't use or install ornamental water features unless they recycle water.
- Start a conservation program.
- Know where your water gets used. It is important to know how much water is being used for each of your firm's industrial processes and/or domestic needs. Monitor your water bills to see how you're doing.
- Get your business PACE certified! PACE (Partners for a Clean Environment) recognizes businesses that implement conservation methods.