Drought resiliency landscaping to be added to Glenwood Springs development code

City of Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Supervisor Matt Urmson walks down the zigzag trail at Eight Street and Midland. The zigzag trail will be part of the Xericscaping demonstration garden in the open space next to Veltus Park. Xericscaping is the process of landscaping or gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The city of Glenwood Springs is hoping to add more drought resiliency landscaping techniques to its development code.

“We have long been talking about how we as a community can use water more efficiently, and one of the main areas of water consumption for us as a community is outdoor irrigation,” said Bryana Starbuck, Glenwood public information officer.

Water use during the summer months multiplies almost fourfold because of outdoor irrigation, lawn watering and other summer uses, she said.

This week, the city staff will be asking council to approve development code changes after receiving input from the community and researching many other Colorado communities moving in the same directions.

Many communities in the state like Boulder and Aspen are adopting xeric landscaping principles to conserve water. The principles include concepts that promote water efficiency, more native plant species, and in Glenwood’s case, climate adaptive or drought-resistant species, along with better mulching practices and hydrozones.

Hydrozones are areas which are grouped by similar needs. For example, grouping plants that require the same amount of water and soil PH.

The code change also requests changes to the development code for installation and maintenance for irrigation system designs. They request to prohibit leaks, runoff and overspray.

Irrigation systems shall be designed to prevent water waste, overwatering and overspray and drainage of water onto any paved or unplanted surface, according to new code language.

Having leaks or water waste will result in a violation of the code, though the city does plan to work with the community and do additional outreach and education before any penalties are acted on.

“Quite a few updates on how projects install irrigation,” Hannah Klausman, the active community development director for Glenwood, said. “This is aimed at inefficiencies in even just watering your garden, overspray, overwatering, pooling or sprinkler systems that are set up in such a way that they’re actually watering the sidewalk and not so much the landscape.”

Code changes for using turf in new developments will be another change.

The total amount of high-water use zones on a property shall not exceed 50% of the total landscaped area, according to the new code language. Turf grass areas designated and approved as functional turf, landscape areas dedicated to gardens and food production and trees in tree grates, shall be excluded from the total landscaped area under this requirement.

High water-use turf grass will be prohibited unless it is exempt through the application process for a space that offers a recreation benefit for the community, like with a golf course, a ball field or a pet-relief area.

“Ball fields that get high usage do need to have that stronger high water turf, such as Kentucky Bluegrass because it stands up and it’s durable,” Klausman said. “What that’s aimed at is not having huge, expansive lawns that don’t serve a purpose. They don’t serve a recreational purpose or use purpose.”

The new landscape standards were also updated to include single-family and duplex developments, which are included in the subsection for water efficient landscaping standards, Klausman said.

The city has already started using Xeric landscaping techniques and they created a Xeric species list of native and drought resistant species for residents to choose smart landscaping plants from.

Planning and zoning is wanting to add Firewise landscaping before summer as well.

“We wanted to get these particular waterwise landscaping standards to the city council before the major building season,” Klausman said. “In the staff report, I have indicated staff will review the landscaping standards within six months to better incorporate firewise standards.”

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