Greeley, Colorado – Compost Amended Soil

Due to water scarcity in early 2000s—brought on by a prolonged state of drought as well as heavy demand on the Colorado and Cache la Poudre Rivers—many municipalities in Colorado realized the value of compost amendment to the state’s organic matter-deficient soil as a water conservation method. Although the city government of Greeley, Colorado has enforced other water restrictions for over a century, during this time period it became necessary for the city to mandate the conservation of water use in landscaping. Part of this effort included requiring a specified minimum amount of compost to be applied in all new lawn installations.

Under 2004’s Ordinance No. 15, anyone installing a new lawn and/or wishing to obtain a variance to water the less than one month old lawn in the City of Greeley had to prove that the soil had been amended with compost. The minimum requirement was, and remains, the incorporation of four cubic yards of compost for every thousand square feet of landscaped area and at a depth of six inches throughout. Properly adding compost to the soil could result in up to thirty percent savings in water use, according to Greeley Water & Sewer Department.[1]


Controlled Irrigation and Positive Public Response

In 2005, the passage of Ordinance No. 26 spoke to the effectiveness of implementing additional conservation measures like controlled irrigation: “Greeley citizens have responded well to water restrictions imposed over the last several years to conserve the City’s water supply.” The Ordinance further indicates that conservation measures “continue to have a value in both conserving water and minimizing pressure drops in certain parts of the City.” These mandatory water conservation measures requiring the use of compost are now codified as Section 20-226 (63)(a) “Sprinkling restrictions; drought level; penalty” and Section 24-1144 (c)(6) “Removal and replacement of landscaping” of the city code. Copies of the original 2004 and 2005 ordinances are also available as PDFs below.


Enforcement and Penalties

Citizens, landscapers, or any other individual installing a new lawn or wishing to obtain a watering variance for seeding or sodding an established lawn, must provide proof that their soil has been amended with compost or other acceptable organic matter. The homeowner or landscape installer must provide the City with an original receipt or invoice confirming the purchase of compost, as well as proof of purchase of seed or sod. Additionally, they must provide a photo or invoice indicating that a tiller was used to adequately amend the soil to a six to eight inch depth. There is no fee for obtaining a variance.[2] Non-compliance will result in financial penalties, which are higher during times of declared drought, as described in (d) of Section 14.08.290.


More Information

Other Colorado municipalities have similar policies and public programs to those of Greeley, such as Denver, Fort Collins, and Aurora.

The above referenced ordinances by Greeley’s Public Services from 2004 and 2005 can be found as PDFs below:


[1] City of Greeley. circa 2015. “Landscape Policy Plan for Water Efficiency.” [link] [2] City of Greeley Water & Sewer. n.d. “Lawn Installments and Permits.” [link

Original post from July 30, 2012
Updated July 13, 2021