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

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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.

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