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In 2020, Colorado Springs Utilities was awarded a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for their PureWater Colorado Mobile Demonstration project. The project, designed by Carollo Engineers and constructed inside a mobile trailer by the Colorado School of Mines, applies advanced purification processes to recycle reclaimed water to produce potable water that meets state and federal drinking water standards. The mobile DPR trailer is an important resource that can now be used by water providers around the state to help evaluate the potential role of DPR in their communities.
WRA worked closely with WRCO, Denver Water and others to help ensure the success of the first PureWater Colorado DPR demonstration project hosted at Denver Water’s Recycled Water Treatment Plant in 2018. The project relied on targeted audience tours and DPR water, beer and wine tastings to demonstrate how proven advanced treatment technologies can safely create purified water for drinking.
WRA has organized and participated in numerous water conference sessions on reuse, helping to educate the public, water managers and other decision makers about reuse, and specifically DPR. We have worked on reuse webinars, a radio show, and headline articles in Headwaters Magazine and Fresh Water News. We have also presented to state legislators to inform them of the state of reuse and future opportunities in Colorado.
Since 2015, WRA has been working with WaterReuse Colorado (WRCO), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and many others to develop new state water quality regulation to safely allow for direct potable reuse. We’ve spearheaded and helped manage two projects with technical, public health, communications and other experts to help develop a framework for DPR regulations in Colorado. Most recently we helped secure funding and serve on the Steering Committee for a CDPHE Stakeholder Process that is developing a DRP regulatory proposal that will be used for a Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) rulemaking hearing scheduled for October 2022. The rulemaking is the final step in implementing new direct potable reuse regulations for Colorado. There is much support for and anticipation of the new regulations, with at least one water provider already waiting for the new regulations to implement a direct potable reuse project.
Graywater was legalized in Colorado in 2015 through Regulation 86 and as of 2022, the graywater regulation was up for review by the Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPHE) and the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC). WRA is involved in the State’s stakeholder engagement process and our goal is to see the regulation streamlined and simplified to ultimately allow many more Coloradoans to install graywater systems.
The City of Moab is interested in adopting a water efficient landscaping ordinance to reduce potable water demand for landscaping installed in new and redevelopment. The ordinance will include a significant graywater incentive that will allow homeowners and businesses that install a graywater system to increase their allotted landscape water budget allowance, set by the ordinance. This ordinance is being developed in partnership with WRA.
In 2020, the City of Golden adopted a laundry-to-landscape graywater ordinance, the first of its kind in Colorado, which allows for simple, laundry-to-landscape systems to be installed in new and existing residential development, in order to reduce potable water demand for landscape irrigation. The program was developed in partnership with WRA and includes funding for pilot demonstration projects throughout the city.
WRA worked with Water Education Colorado, WRCO and South Metro communities in 2019 on a Recycled Water Fest, which was a fun way to educate the public and decision makers about the importance of recycling water to Colorado’s future. Wine made with DPR water was served.
Santa Fe County adopted its Sustainable Land Development Code in 2015 which includes a requirement that rainwater catchment systems be installed for all new construction and all remodeling of existing structures whose roof area is 2,500 square feet or greater. The systems must be designed to capture rainwater from a minimum of 85% of the roofed area.
City of Woodland Park, Colo. is a small community of about 8,000 people that has robustly integrated their water resources management objectives into their comprehensive plan for years, as directed by the city council. This has helped ensure that their limited water supplies remain sufficient for their growing community, and that water issues are always addressed in connection with growth and development proposals.
Silver City offers a bonus to applicants for development permits as an incentive to use only trees and vegetation contained on a pre-approved Low-Water and Native Vegetation list within the ordinance. The bonus allows applicants to reduce the project’s landscaping area requirements by 10%. Silver City only allows for a maximum of 50% of landscaped areas to be covered by plants requiring irrigation.
The City of Scottsdale adopted the 2015 edition of the International Green Construction Code as part of the city’s building code, which seeks water efficiency regardless of the water source, includes efficiency provisions for plumbing fixtures and fittings, appliances, equipment, carwashes, and cooling towers, and contains standards for HVAC systems, onsite water-treatment systems, metering, and alternative water sources.
The City of Flagstaff amended its Land Development Code to provide for clustered and planned development residential uses such as Duplex/Triplex, Townhouse, Terrace House, Multiplex, and Apartment or Condominium Buildings. The city’s addition of numerous small, compact housing types to the Code was motivated by the need for greater affordability, but also fosters a more compact, water-efficient development pattern.
In 2021, The City of Moab adopted an updated Water Conservation Plan that incorporates land use planning through action items that will require more water-efficient landscaping standards for new development, incentives for the use of alternative supplies like rainwater and graywater, and development standards that incorporate water-efficiency principles. WRA is supporting the city to develop its new water-efficient landscaping standards.
In 2021, the City of Sandy passed a revised Water Conservation Plan that includes existing and planned updates to encourage additional water conservation through codes and ordinances such as water-efficient landscaping standards that mandate irrigation audits for all new properties, permanent time-of-day watering restrictions, and water waste prohibitions.
Beginning in 2019, the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District (JVWCD) developed new Water Efficiency Standards to help development within their member agencies become more water efficient. The standards include specific landscaping requirements and standards, including limitations on where turf lawns can be installed and specific irrigation requirements. JVWCD partnered with WRA to help review those standards and ensure they are in line with industry best practices and standards. Because JVWCD is one of the largest water conservancy districts in Utah, this is a great step in making the fastest growing state focus on water efficiency.
In 2020, the City of Golden adopted a laundry-to-landscape graywater ordinance, the first of its kind in Colorado, which allows for simple, laundry-to-landscape systems to be installed in new and existing residential development, in order to reduce potable water demand for landscape irrigation. The program — developed in partnership with WRA — includes funding for pilot demonstration projects throughout the city.
City of Aurora, Colo. is a large city of about 370,000 people that hosts pre-development meetings before a development application is submitted, and these meetings always include a water utility representative. This agency integration provides an opportunity to explain Aurora Water’s rules and policies, and to promote the water-efficiency incentives they offer, such as reduced fees for water-efficient landscapes. In addition, when the City’s planning department is thinking through zoning decisions, they use software to model the water demands associated with different development scenarios.
Town of Castle Rock, Colo. is a medium sized community of about 62,000 people that adopted a water system development fee schedule that financially rewards developers when they include indoor and outdoor water-efficiency measures in new homes. Developers must submit plans, meet minimum criteria, and have third-party verification after construction in order to receive a reduction in the system development fee.
At WRA, the West is also our passion. The Colorado River and its many tributaries carve out stunning canyons and provide renowned recreational opportunities. People from across the world visit our small towns and urban centers, our national and state parks, and our trails and wilderness. Lark buntings, longspurs, and sage grouse share our prairies, and pelicans and godwits grace our lakes. Our vast open spaces and diverse habitats provide wide range for migrating pronghorn and elk.
Today in the West our population is doubling, outdoor recreation is soaring, and climate change is threatening our very way of life, as demands on water and land grow beyond sustainability. Our team of policy experts, scientists, economists, and attorneys has a 30-year history of working where decisions are made, sweating the details, creating evidence-based solutions and holding decision makers accountable. While states have boundaries, the environment does not.
We respect the different needs of diverse communities and partner with them to develop a shared vision for progress—one that advances our communities while protecting biodiversity. Our direct engagement with policymakers and other advocates advances clean energy, protects air, land, water, and wildlife—and sustains the lives and livelihoods of people in the West.
WRA takes big, bold ideas—a Colorado River that runs to the sea, an economy that runs on carbon-free energy, and 50% of all land protected and connected—and we ask the hard question: How? We use Western ingenuity and practicality—backed by science—to drive change for a more sustainable future.
We have precious little time to prevent the worst impacts of climate change on the West’s rivers, lands, and communities. WRA is tackling our region’s toughest challenges, and we’re winning. We successfully reduce carbon emissions, protect rivers, improve air quality, and redefine how land for birds, wildlife, and communities is protected and connected.
But there is so much more to do.
The science is clear. We must limit global heating to 1.5 to 2 °C to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change. WRA is a leader in reducing carbon pollution in the power sector, and we’re setting the stage to transition the West to clean electricity. Our goal is to reduce emissions from the power sector in the Interior West at least 51% by 2030, compared to 2016 levels, with the aim of achieving 100% clean energy no later than 2050.
In the Interior West, 13.3 million people—60% of the population—live in areas where the air quality fails to meet federal health standards. WRA uses its extensive legal expertise to ensure states take strong actions to reduce air pollutants in every neighborhood and hold polluters accountable to take steps to update or retire obsolete technologies. With the health of our families and neighbors in jeopardy, we must clean the air in our communities now.
The Colorado River, the lifeblood of the West, is projected to decrease by as much as 20% in the next three decades. With an increasingly warm and dry climate—and the current decades-long megadrought across our region—we need better ways to meet the growing demands of rivers and people. WRA safeguards our waterways by fostering collaboration between water users and through innovative efficiency measures to reduce demand for water and protect flows. Our goal is to protect and restore the health of rivers for current and future generations.
Natural areas and important habitats in the West are rapidly disappearing, primarily because of increased human development in the last two decades. WRA is securing vital funding at the state level and pushing our lawmakers to take bold action to protect the birds, wildlife, and humans made vulnerable by that rapid loss. Our goal is to protect and connect 50% of lands by 2050.