To Save Water, Developers Ditch Lawns

Developers of Sterling Ranch, a proposed master-planned community in Colorado, want its future residents to curb their water use. One way they're ensuring this is by nixing traditional, lush lawns from their plans.
October 15, 2009, 11am PDT | Judy Chang
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"Yards will be sunk down a couple inches below the sidewalk so they act as a bowl, soaking up moisture. Any runoff -- or rainwater -- that does hit the pavement will flow down into 55,000-gallon cisterns built under the streets. That water will be available to homeowners for outdoor irrigation. But it will be rationed tightly.

'You abuse exterior water use, we'll warn you, fine you, and then we will shut your water off,' says Jack Hoagland, another development partner. 'So sue us,' he says, chuckling. 'We'll take care of water hogs.'

All athletic fields in Sterling Ranch will be artificial turf. If the technology pans out, tall poles with photovoltaic panels on top may be planted in the bottom of the communal reservoir to act like giant parasols, shielding the stored water from evaporation.

All of which makes some neighbors uneasy. Nearly 400 have banded together to criticize the development. They are concerned about the added traffic and the visual clutter. But most of all, they worry about water.

Though the developers promise that drought-tolerant landscaping can be lush, neighbors fear it will look bleak and barren. They don't like the idea of artificial turf plunked down on their prairie. And they worry that future residents of Sterling Ranch will demand far more water than developers are budgeting, leaving other parts of the county high and dry."

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Published on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 in The Wall Street Journal
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