Keeping Lakewood’s 8,000 acres of parks green under the heat of the summer sun takes a lot of work, but the City’s Parks Division has been accomplishing it while dramatically cutting the amount of water used for grass and park landscaping.

Since 2008, the Parks Division has reduced its outdoor water use by 30 percent, saving about 28 million gallons a year – an important achievement in a high-altitude arid state trying to meet growing demands for water.

“Denver Water has had a strong relationship with Lakewood Parks and Recreation,” says Mark Cassalia, a conservation specialist with Denver Water, which provides most of the water in Lakewood for residents, businesses and the city government. “That relationship goes back years, and Lakewood has been a leader in using water efficiently.”

Lakewood has been so effective that it uses less water than even Denver Water recommends for keeping the typical expanse of bluegrass turf green. But conserving water while providing green areas for residents to enjoy is a critical mission for the Parks Division.

“Summer to me in Lakewood is seeing residents of our community and visitors out enjoying their park system,” says Lakewood Parks Manager Steve Carpenter.

The division’s efforts to cut outdoor water use started in earnest after the 2002-2003 drought, Carpenter says, and it has employed cutting-edge technology and a pragmatic long-term approach. The division has built a foundation by tracking year-over-year water use. Following that drought, the division installed a computerized central irrigation system, which tracks water use in real time everywhere in the parks. It also allows managers to adjust water usage depending on the conditions.

“The monitors allow the managers to pull up any location, any valve, find out what’s going on at any site,” Carpenter remarks. “It lets us detect leaks and breaks in our irrigation lines so we can isolate an area and shut it off until it’s repaired.”

The division makes use of non-potable water sources not needed for homes and businesses, and it waters at night to reduce water loss due to evaporation. The division also embraces using drought-tolerant plants that consume less water, known as “xeric” species. Besides the acclaimed xeric landscaped garden at Kendrick Lake Park, medians that once featured turf grass with shrubs are under renovation to replant them with water-wise plants including species native to Colorado. It’s really a matter of using the right plant in the right place.

“Plant beds in our medians are watered underground so the water goes directly to the roots of plants,” Carpenter adds. “Watering underground is much more efficient than overhead irrigation because it reduces evaporation.”

Lakewood is one of 10 park and recreation providers across the metro area that are partners with Denver Water, working on efficient water use for nearly 15 years.

“Lakewood and Denver Water share information and ideas all the time,” Carpenter says. “It’s a great way to help each other and save water.”