One of Centennial Water and Sanitation District’s biggest users cut its outdoor irrigation usage almost in half over a two-year period by updating sprinkler systems and implementing drought-resistant landscaping.
Wind Crest, a senior living community on 85 acres in Highlands Ranch, was using over 33 million gallons of water on outdoor irrigation in 2020, which put them in the top five biggest water users in the district, according to Centennial Water Conservation Specialist Paige McFarland.
So Wind Crest and Centennial Water partnered to conduct an irrigation analysis, which looked for inefficiencies, like sprinklers spraying sidewalks or spraying too long. The analysis prompted Wind Crest’s resident action council to endorse a project to address water usage, resident Sara Jo Light said.
“We wanted to raise the bar and be consistent with efforts in the state,” Light said.
With the data from the analysis and overwhelming resident approval, Wind Crest began the process of switching out its irrigation system for a more water-friendly one. The changes made resulted in a savings of more than 15 million gallons in 2022, or a reduction of 45% from 2020.
With over a thousand sprinkler heads on the property and some as old as 15 years, replacing the system was no easy task. Wind Crest’s Senior Facilities Director Andrea Simmons said it was a team effort over the course of several months.
“We did a lot of customizing and a lot of assessments, so we are hitting the grass areas, are we overshooting into the rocks or watering the sidewalk,” she said.
In addition, the community built 16 native-species gardens last year and, this year, will add a pollinator garden and begin to change out its landscape from turf to remediated soil, native grasses, drought-resistant trees and wildflowers.
“Now going forward, we do a master landscape plan and start looking at what areas of grass we can start cutting back, so that’s what we’ll focus on this year,” Simmons said. “We’re hoping to keep seeing our (water usage) numbers decreasing because it was shocking to see the difference.”
McFarland said outdoor irrigation typically accounts for roughly half of the district’s annual water use, so changes to watering systems and landscaping can make a huge impact.
“There’s a multitude of benefits beyond water conservation and water conservation is just the beginning of having a more sustainable landscape,” she said.
To support those efforts, Centennial Water offers annual funding for homeowners associations to conduct irrigation analyses, like Wind Crest, on a first come, first serve basis. This year, Centennial Water budgeted $90,000 for irrigation analyses.
The irrigation analysis helps water users pinpoint the big issues and prioritize changes, McFarland added.
“It helps know where to begin because we can’t solve a problem if we can’t see what all the issues are,” she said. “It’s important to be an example and for everyone to equally do their part in relation to the amount of water they use.”
Being an example for other homeowner’s associations is why Light felt compelled to share the success at Wind Crest.
“I would love to see our property be a role model for all of Highlands Ranch,” Light said. “Our tagline for the project was ‘Protect the land, ensure your legacy.’”