Sterling Ranch, Colorado, is a $4.4 billion master-planned community which will eventually contain two million square feet of commercial space and 12,000 homes, and it may be the future of water conservation as well. When construction is completed, approximately 40 percent of community water use will come from harvested rainwater, which has been in the master plan since its inception.

The planning extends to the landscape as well, and Sterling Ranch has partnered with Denver Botanical Gardens to choose a plant pallet that will save the town water. “This community is one with the land, and the land is one with it,” said Harold Smethills, head of the Sterling Ranch Development Company.

Smethills and his wife began the project in 2003, then in 2009 their plan was showcased as a model for communities across the country by the Wall Street Journal. Normally, when water gets scarce, water bills go up to cover the fixed costs of water districts. In this community, widespread rainwater harvesting will help insulate property owners from this effect. If Sterling Ranch prospers in the coming decade, other communities will be sure to take notice.