Published: March 22, 2024 By

Aditi Bhaskar with mountains blurred in the background.
Associate Professor Aditi Bhaskar

Bella Oleksy hiking with a backpack and a winter hat on her head.
Assistant Professor Isabella Oleksy

It’s well-known that large amounts of municipal water are being used for residential lawn irrigation. But the solution to conserve water is not as simple as removing the grass and replacing it with other materials.

Associate Professor Aditi Bhaskar, from CU Boulder’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, and Assistant Professor Isabella Oleksy, of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, received a $296,000 grant from the Colorado Water Board to investigate ground cover options that could replace turfgrass, studying their impact on water use, urban heat, water quality and flooding.

Titled “The Effects of Landscape Transformations on Urban Heat and Water Quality,” the project aims to quantify how landscape changes affect urban heat and water quality in the Denver metropolitan area.  By achieving these goals, the project will help develop best practices for landscape transformations and turf replacement options in Colorado.

For example, replacing lawns with gravel can exacerbate the heat island effect, where urban areas experience higher temperatures due to human activities and infrastructure. The effect is caused by the absorption and retention of heat by man-made surfaces.

Through assessing turfgrass replacement options and other landscape transformations, the project aims to inform best practices for water conservation, climate adaptation and stormwater management.