Thornton, CO

Incentivizing Water Efficient Home Construction Our Approach Project Outcomes

Project Goal

WaterNow worked with the City of Thornton to develop an incentive program to improve water use efficiency in newly constructed homes. The goals of this program were to have a 20% increase in water use efficiency compared to older homes on the market locally. This project represents a special opportunity that can be replicated in other communities, making Thornton a model across the west and nationwide.

Our Approach

The Denver metro area, and the City of Thornton in particular, is experiencing a booming economy and steady population growth. To ensure that Thornton can meet the water needs of their population, both now and into the future, Thornton has offered a suite of conservation programs to improve efficiency and manage demand.

In anticipation of further projected growth, and as part of their 2018 Water Efficiency Plan, Thornton was interested in developing a new program to incentivize the construction of new homes that are water efficient. WaterNow worked with Thornton to develop an incentive program that is cost-effective for the utility and motivates developers to install ultra-efficient plumbing fixtures and low-water use landscapes at the construction phase.

Our project included five phases: 1) research similar programs and best management practices; 2) engage with local stakeholders; 3) develop program design and identify metrics to track program success; 4) develop an outreach and communications plan.


Following research of existing incentive programs and tap fee structures in Colorado and two stakeholder meetings, the project team identified a three-tiered incentive program to improve water use efficiency on several fronts, but primarily targeting outdoor water use. Tier One focused on smart irrigation controllers, MP rotators, and high-efficiency toilets; Tier Two included Tier One elements, in addition to turf limits in front yard landscapes; and Tier Three combined Tier One and Tier Two elements with elements focused on graywater systems and hot water recirculating systems. The City has incorporated some of these recommendations into their rebate and incentive program (detailed on their website).

The findings from this project can be a model for other fast-growing communities in the Front range and elsewhere that are considering incentives for water efficient growth. This process also propelled Thornton’s Water Resources Department to request a substantial increase in funding to grow the program in coming years.