November 30, 2020
By mid-summer, 100% of Colorado was experiencing drought with 60% of the state experiencing “severe” to “exceptional” drought. Projections indicate our climate is becoming warmer and drier, reducing snowpack, pushing spring runoff earlier, and threatening the health of rivers. At the same time, Colorado has one of the fastest growing populations in the nation. This puts pressure on municipal water supplies and rivers – many of which are already diverted in large part for municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses.
Coloradans cherish our waterways, which provide clean drinking water, unparalleled recreation, and important wildlife habitat; support farms and ranches and thousands of jobs; and contribute billions of dollars to our economy. We can invest in our communities’ longterm water security while keeping rivers healthy and supporting our economy, but we’ll need to think differently than we have in the past and pursue smart water solutions.
In our semi-arid state, forward-thinking planning is necessary to align shrinking water supplies with growing demand. There is very little to no “new” water available to be developed, so efficient water use and creative new water supply alternatives must be pursued. Western Resource Advocates is a conservation organization that works hand-in-hand with municipalities to help them effectively meet their water supply needs.
A SUSTAINABLE WATER SUPPLY PORTFOLIO
Communities can take a number of actions to ensure they have sufficient and sustainable water supplies now and into the future. Community leaders can work with their water utility, planning department, and other staff to develop a water supply portfolio that is right for them. This article provides several potential solutions and resources to help jump-start conversations in your community.
Water conservation, minimizing water waste and increasing efficiency, is often the least expensive and easiest option. Many resources are available to assist communities in evaluating their current water use and potential conservation opportunities. We provide several in the “Learn More” sidebar at the end of this article.
On average, about half of municipal water in Colorado is used indoors and half is used outdoors. Every new development provides an opportunity to boost conservation, as it is much easier, more efficient, and more cost effective to build new developments smart from the start. While indoor fixtures and appliances can be replaced with water-efficient models relatively easily, retrofitting outdoor landscaping and irrigation is a bigger undertaking, so it is important to get right from the beginning. Developing a strong conservation plan and a culture of efficiency as soon as possible will decrease the water a community needs long into the future.
A strong and innovative conservation program, implemented in earnest after the 2002 drought, has allowed the City of Aurora to significantly decrease per person water use as their population grows. Water efficiency is a key strategy to ensuring the city has sufficient water supplies into the future. Source: City of Aurora. Note that the city is currently updating their Integrated Water Management Plan and will have updated data available when that is completed in 2022.
INTEGRATED WATER AND LAND USE PLANNING
Large and small communities alike can help ensure efficient water use by integrating water and land use planning. Integrated planning can occur through comprehensive plans, water master plans, zoning and landscape codes, and development review processes. See the water and land use article in this issue for several Colorado examples of communities integrating water and land use planning.
…continue reading in Colorado Municipalities Magazine on page 35