Modeling Future Yard Irrigation in the Front Range

Date: 1/1/19 - 8/31/20
Aerial view of suburban houses with vibrant green lawns
Principal Researchers: Austin Troy Student Researchers: Gretel Follingstad

This research, funded by the Babbitt Center and the Water Research Foundation, is working to develop a methodology to predict future water use in the greater Denver metro area in response to urban growth. It focuses particularly on residential yard irrigation, how it will increase with population, and how it will change in response to factors like climate change, water efficient irrigation technology, and land use policies or design guidelines. The current phase represents a pilot study, focused on two municipalities, Denver and Aurora, with the intent to expand to the entire Denver metro region in subsequent phases. This project utilizes the outputs of Denver Regional Council of Governments’ (DRCOG) UrbanSim growth model to base its predictions of future household growth, both through new development and increasing density of existing development. Water use by household is estimated from our statistical analysis of customer data from our partnering organization, Denver Water (customer data from other jurisdictions is expected soon). Using these data records in conjunction with high-resolution remote sensing data, we are able to determine how outdoor water use varies with landscaping factors (lawn and tree area, tree age, shading, etc). We use these results to create a "housing typology" where each house "type" represents a different outdoor water use profile. These "types" can then be assigned to areas of future growth based characteristics of the simulated future households (e.g. age structure, lot size, housing value, income, etc), as derived from the UrbanSim model. When this "baseline" estimate of water use is completed, we will run alternative scenarios, in which changes to aggregate water use are evaluated in response to factors like climate change, water-wise landscaping regulations and higher density zoning among other factors.