U.S. Water News Online
AURORA, Colo. -- As the state grapples with the worst
drought on record, officials in this Denver suburb announced a
sweeping water ban to prohibit planting trees, shrubs, flowers,
vegetables or lawns after May 3.
A lack of snow has strained the city's 12 reservoirs, which are 27
percent full; they should average 65 percent this time of year. City
leaders worry whether enough water will be available this summer for
Aurora's 300,000 water customers.
``Basically a drought is a very slow-acting natural disaster,''
city spokeswoman Melissa Elliott said. ``While our residents and
businesses met conservation goals last year, we haven't received the
snowfall we need to fill our reservoirs.''
Every Western state from Colorado to the West Coast is
experiencing some degree of drought. Colorado is coping with the
worst drought since record-keeping began in the 1890s.
The ban, which applies to perennials and annuals, may signal
what's to come in other cities. Aurora, the third-largest municipal
water supplier in Colorado, was one of the first to restrict watering
days last year. Twenty-five other communities followed suit.
``Everyone has been calling us this year saying, 'What are you
doing?''' Elliott said.
The city's nurseries and landscaping companies are trying to
educate customers about drought-tolerant plants while scaling back
``I'm looking at a 30 percent decrease in revenue compared to last
year,'' said Richard Ortega, owner of Nick's Garden Center & Farm
Market. ``There's a lot of uncertainty out there.''
Forty percent of the nursery's sales are in May and June, after
the city's deadline. Ortega said he's stocking more decorative and
house plants, patio items and rocks. The nursery will open its farm
market with fresh fruits and vegetables earlier to generate more
Colorado's $1.4 billion nursery and landscaping industry took a
$75 million hit last year because of watering restrictions and other
cutbacks linked to the state's drought, according to Colorado State
City officials acknowledged the new ban would be difficult to
enforce. Violations can carry hefty penalties. The first infraction
carries a warning and up to a $500 fine is possible on the fourth
violation, Elliott said.
Mary Arnold, who grows lettuce, tomatoes and a variety of herbs in
her yard, is pushing up her planting schedule to beat the May 3
``Maybe that would be called cheating,'' said Arnold. ``I'll get
whatever I can out before then.''
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