New program aims to integrate land use planning and water management in the West

Resilient Communities and Watersheds kicks off next week in Colorado

KEYSTONE, Colorado (Sept. 5, 2017) – The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Sonoran Institute are teaming up to address a critical need in the Colorado River Basin by training communities how to use land efficiently and conserve water as they grow.

The Resilient Communities and Watersheds program arose from a fundamental lack of integration between land use planning and water management in the western United States. The program’s inaugural Growing Water Smart workshop will host participants from six communities and urban planning organizations from Colorado’s Western Slope and Front Range, Sept. 11-13 at the Keystone Policy Center in Keystone, Colorado.

Staff, community members, elected officials and other representatives from Rico, Fort Collins, Westminster, North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization, Eagle and Archuleta County will receive a full range of communications, public engagement, planning and policy implementation tools to realize their watershed health and community resiliency goals.

The program and its workshops are designed to focus on pioneering approaches in research, collaborative community planning, capacity building and policy engagement to improve land and water planning in the Colorado River Basin. Teams will leave with action plans that will allow them to immediately begin implementation.

“Historically, planning for water resources and planning for land use development have been conducted in silos–yet the two areas profoundly impact one another. The ultimate goal is to create an environment in which water resources meet the demands of both people and nature to simultaneously support healthy watersheds and prosperous communities across the Colorado River Basin,” Jeremy Stapleton, Sonoran Institute’s Director of Climate Resilience, said. “Cities and towns, farmers and ranchers, and industry and conservation organizations can all learn to work collaboratively to use land efficiently and conserve water as they plan for the future.”

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River supports nearly 40 million people, irrigates 5.5 million acres of land and provides for 22 federally recognized tribes, seven national wildlife refuges, four national recreation areas and 11 national parks. Arizona State University reports more than 16 million public and private sector jobs, and over $1.4 trillion in economic activity, in the basin region rely on the availability of Colorado River water each year. And, many states, like Colorado, have outlined goals to establish water-smart communities over the next decade.

Although Colorado is a headwater state, the state’s water supply faces increasing uncertainty with more people migrating to over-appropriated river basins, longer droughts and more frequent fires. Colorado’s Water Plan predicts that by 2050, the state could have a gap between water supply and demand of up to 560,000 acre feet.

“In the Colorado River Basin and water-stressed regions worldwide, we are pushing our natural systems to the limits–and how we use our land is a critical factor,” said Peter Pollock, Manager of Western Programs for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. “This program reflects the Lincoln Institute’s commitment to better understanding the connection between land and water, and to help sustain our natural resources for future generations.”

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