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A 9NEWS viewer named Rob was running at Waterton Canyon Sunday morning when he spotted something that seemed out of place: Sprinklers watering a manicured lawn.

“It's a trail; there's wildlife up there,” Rob wrote. “Why would they need grass that isn't there naturally?”


The lawn and adjacent house belong to Denver Water, so we contacted the agency’s spokesperson Stacy Chesney for answers.

The house in the photo is for a caretaker of Waterton Canyon and his or her family.

There’s actually three homes for three caretakers in the Canyon, Chesney said. Their collective job is to make sure water is flowing smoothly from Strontia Springs.

It’s no small job. Strontia Springs pumps nearly 80 percent of the water for the agency’s 1 million customers.

“Denver Water’s caretakers live and work at our major dams 24/7/365 to ensure our customers have a reliable, safe supply of water,” Chesney said. “They often endure harsh conditions and are on on-call to maintain and operate the dams, reservoirs and hydropower plants -- no matter the time of day.”

For example, a caretaker could spend Christmas morning chipping ice from the canals.

The reason for the lawn is two-fold.

The first is caretakers often have families that can include small children, so Denver Water allows its caretakers to maintain “a small yard” for their kids, Chesney said.

The second reason is short grass helps create defensible space around the homes in the event of a wildfire.

“In Waterton Canyon, the landscape is irrigated with non-potable well water that’s returned to the river,” Chesney said.

And Denver Water foots the bill for the house and the lawn.

“It’s sort of like living in a fire station,” Chesney said. “It’s a Denver Water facility.”

If you’re curious about what it would be like to grow up at one of these caretaker’s homes, you can click here to read a first-person account by Denver Water employee Jessica Mahaffey.