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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Colorado legislators propose cash-for-grass plan to save water


Much has been made of the drought in California in recent years. After all, it is difficult to ignore 39 million people and about 700 golf courses. But the drought across the West is hardly limited to California. All or part of several states across the western part of the Lower 48 have been struggling with arid conditions, and some have felt that thirst for water much longer than California.

Much of Colorado has been mired in drought for more than 20 years, and the state is ready to take measures to help users save water.

A bill under consideration by the state legislature would pay homeowners and others to replace non-native grasses with more water-friendly native plants or xeriscapes. 

House Bill 1151 would offer a portion of a $4 million pool to replace non-native grasses in residential lawns, schools, governments and businesses. Introduced Feb. 4, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Water and then the Committee on Appropriations on Feb. 28. The proposed legislation is sponsored by representatives Marc Catlin and Dylan Roberts, and senators Jeff Bridges and Cleave Simpson.

At least 19 Colorado communities already have a cash-for-grass program. The proposed state program, if it becomes legislation, would provide matching funds in those communities. The program does not apply to golf courses - yet.

A similar program launched in California's Coachella Valley in 2012, ran out of funds in 2015. Another in the Las Vegas Valley pays up to $3 per square foot up to 10,000 square feet and $1.50 per foot after that. That program has taken more than 200 million square feet out of irrigation.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, parts of Colorado have been in severe or extreme drought almost consistently since 2000.

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