Submitted by Bob Doyle
In addressing climate change two basic strategies are important. The first is mitigation and the second is adaptation. Mitigation involves actions that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions or otherwise take up carbon from the atmosphere. Examples of mitigation tactics are replacing fossil fuel generated electricity with renewable energy (solar and wind), reducing energy use (e.g., insulation of buildings), purchasing an electric vehicle, supporting reforestation or regenerative agriculture (where carbon from the atmosphere is taken up in the soil).
Adaptation involves actions that can address the risks brought about by climate change. Examples of adaptation tactics are fireproofing your home, building walls against reoccurring floods and sea level rise, making utilities (power, water, and waste) less susceptible to damage from extreme weather events. Hopefully mitigation efforts will significantly slow climate change. However, with the level of carbon currently in the atmosphere the planet is expected to warm more in coming years, resulting in more extreme weather and thus requiring adaptation to effectively manage the change.
In the western United States, we have been experiencing a mega–drought for the past two decades and it is continuing. Climate change is part of the reason for this drought and thus it is likely to be a continuing problem for farmers, ranchers, ski resorts and all water users, including homeowners, throughout the west. There is little we can do to alleviate this drought but we can adapt to it by conserving our water and using it wisely.
Most of our western water supply is used for farming and ranching and there is much that they can do to conserve and use water more wisely. Cities are a growing consumer of water and must also address the issue of water use and conservation. This is where you as a homeowner or business owner and your local water utility, along with local government come into the picture. In the Denver area, homes and most businesses use more than half of their clean water supply for irrigation of lawns, gardens and trees. Grass lawns in particular are water hungry and need more water than other vegetation.
You can replace portions of your lawn to reduce your water use. There are programs in our area that support the conversion of grass lawns to other landscaping and with the help of your water utility and/or community, you might be able to reduce the cost to you for removing a portion of your lawn and adding low-water demand plants, rocks and mulch. One such program is offered by a local non-profit named Resource Central. You may be aware of their Garden-in-a- Box program. In Aurora and some other Denver-area communities, none in the south metro area, Resource Central partners with the utility/community to provide homeowners with a 50% discount for lawn removal services, making it much more attractive to make such a landscaping change. You should encourage your community to do the same.
Given the potential risks posed by a worsening drought, lawn replacement is likely to be a good investment. We and our local water utilities and municipalities should be concerned; what is likely to happen if little is done versus something more tangible and effective to conserve irrigation water? With continued drought, our landscaping is at risk of drying out and affecting our community’s livability, and even the value of our homes and thus all assets within our community. We must treat water as the precious resource it is and take greater action to conserve it to preserve our community’s livability and values.