Aurora Restricts ‘Cool Weather Turf’ For New Development

Drought is reshaping western U.S. landscapes. Las Vegas banned ornamental grass in 2021. Aurora is now the first municipality in Colorado to curb the use of some grasses in new developments.

2 minute read

August 14, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Aurora, Colorado

Aurora, Colorado is one of the American cities to watch for experiments in intercultural urbanism / Dean Saitta

Aurora, Colorado is on the verge of banning certain varieties of grass—a move that is likely to become a trend in drought-stricken cities throughout the U.S. West.

Lindsey Toomer reports for the Denver Gazette that the Aurora City Council is one final vote away from restricting the use of “cool weather turf” (e.g., Kentucky bluegrass and fescue) for all development and redevelopment projects as well as for all new golf courses. 

“A fact sheet for the ordinance says that Aurora gets less than 15 inches of precipitation every year. But cool weather turf requires as much as 28 inches of precipitation or irrigation in order to survive, and outdoor use accounts for half of the water used in Aurora every year,” explains Toomer.

More details on the ordinance, provided by Toomer:

The ordinance would primarily allow turf only in active or programmed recreation, such as sports fields, or other areas serving non-organized sports events, such as parks. Cool weather turf would be prohibited in medians, curbside landscape, residential front yards and limited in backyards to 500 square feet or 45% of the backyard, whichever is less. It also prohibits use of cool weather turf for new golf courses and bans ornamental water features, such as waterfalls, basins, ponds and exterior decorative fountains.

Aurora joins a small group of U.S. cities implementing drought restrictions in the landscapes of the built environment. Las Vegas, Nevada famously banned the use of Colorado River water for “nonfunctional turf” or “ornamental grass” in 2021. The entire Colorado River watershed is facing unprecedented drought conditions as a “megadrought” persists through the Southwest.

Monday, August 8, 2022 in The Denver Gazette

Rendering of electric scooters, electric cars, light rail train, and apartments in background.

Arizona’s ‘Car-Free’ Community Takes Shape

Culdesac Tempe has been welcoming residents since last year.

February 14, 2024 - The Cool Down

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

"It's The Climate" sign over street in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Oregon Town Seeks Funding for Ambitious Resilience Plan

Like other rural communities, Grants Pass is eager to access federal funding aimed at sustainability initiatives, but faces challenges when it comes to meeting grant requirements.

February 18, 2024 - The Daily Yonder

Close-up of bottom half of stroller being pushed onto sidewalk with no curb cut by person in jeans and brown shoes.

How Infrastructure Communicates Values

The presence and quality of sidewalks, curb cuts, and other basic elements of infrastructure can speak to much more than just economic decisions.

1 hour ago - Strong Towns

Greyhound and Amtrak buses at a temporary bus terminal in San Francisco, California.

Despite High Ridership, Intercity Bus Lines Are Eliminating Stations

Riders on the ‘forgotten stepchild’ of the U.S. transportation system find themselves waiting for buses curbside as Greyhound sells off its real estate in many U.S. cities.

2 hours ago - Governing

Buffalo, New York

Buffalo Residents Push Back on Proposed Cap Park

State and local officials say the $1 billion project will heal neighborhoods divided by the Kensington Expressway, but community members say the proposed plan will exacerbate already poor air quality in the area.

3 hours ago - Bloomberg CityLab

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

The Walkable City

Harvard GSD Executive Education

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.