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Urban water consumption: Trees are not drinking all the water

Authors: Shaundra Rasmussen*, Colorado State University, Melissa McHale, Dept. Ecosystem Science and Sustainability - Colorado State University, Abbye Neel, City of Fort Collins
Topics: Urban Geography, Water Resources and Hydrology, Landscape
Keywords: Urban Geography, Urban Ecology, Water Consumption, Trees, Landscape
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Climate change is driving reductions in Colorado’s water supply. At the same time, increasing urbanization in Colorado and across the western U.S. is placing additional pressures on urban municipal governments to sustainably manage water resources. Implementing effective water conservation practices requires an understanding of the local drivers of consumption. This study focuses on water consumption drivers in Fort Collins, a rapidly growing, semi-arid city of approximately 165,000 people in northern Colorado. We have partnered with the municipal government in Fort Collins, which is interested in both utilizing metered water data to better understand local consumption patterns and promoting water literacy in the community. A growing body of urban ecological research in many major cities details complex relationships between urban water use and the surrounding land cover and socioeconomic characteristics. However, we do not yet fully understand these relationships in arid and semi-arid urban systems. Using multiple regression and path analysis, we examine the drivers of indoor and outdoor consumption patterns in single-family residential neighborhoods. Preliminary results suggest land cover patterns significantly influence water use; specifically, areas with high tree cover tend to use less water than areas with high grass cover. This research will inform the city and its residents of current consumption trends, providing data that can be used to develop future policies that are sustainable and educate the community on efficient water practices.

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