A Fresh Set of Colorado Communities Dive into Water-Smart Growth

Northglenn has a great quality of life for its residents and businesses and is a vibrant community, but its economy depends on a limited water supply that may run dry during times of drought.

This is the situation the Northglenn, Colorado is in today. 

Therefore, we must champion strategies to increase water conservation and efficiency through strategic land and water planning efforts to ensure a sustainable water future for our community.  

And, that’s their rallying cry.

Together these two sentences become a powerful message developed in the recent Growing Water Smart workshop to call one another to action. Next, they will develop a robust focus on water within their Comprehensive Plan to guide future decisions around development.

City Park in Denver, Colorado with ponds and city buildings in the distance
City Park in Denver, Colorado

Across Colorado many communities continue to make strides to ensure that development and redevelopment minimizes the impact on water supply and watershed health. This fall, six teams representing 11 Colorado cities, towns, and counties came together for our 4-day virtual Growing Water Smart workshopheld August 13–September 10 

Switching to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic also allowed us to change the scheduling to accommodate working life. Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy host each workshop to provide an intensive program to assess current conditions around wateridentify local challenges, establish collaborative processes and impactful messages, and develop a 12-month action plan to reach their goals.

Many participants agreed that the most valuable part of the workshop is the action planning process to start their journeys.

Unique water challenges in rural Colorado 

Some participants, like the team from Northglenn, came from the urban Front Range, while others joined from the Western Slope. This more rural part of the state is seeing rapidly rising temperatures threaten water resources and agricultural heritage. The Tri-County Water Conservancy District convened a team that spanned the Uncompahgre Valley, with three counties and multiple municipalities moving forward on a visionary collaboration that will collectively steward their Valley’s water resources long into the future.

Virtual Meeting participants hi-fiving each other
Virtual high fives in our GWS workshop

Workshop results 

After four days of collaboration and motivation, the participants ended the workshop with virtual “high fives” and plan to meet with their teams within the following month to keep the momentum going. Sonoran Institute will keep in touch with the workshop graduates and help them achieve their goals through our technical assistance program.  

Other graduates, like Jefferson County and the City of Westminster have gone on to win awards for their accomplishments and become known for their water-smart approaches to growth. 

Looking for more info? 

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s short 5-minute film offers viewers a glimpse into the process and outcomes of the Growing Water Smart program. 

If you are interested in forming a team to attend the next Growing Water Smart workshop in Colorado or Arizona in Spring 2021, please email ClimateResilience@sonoraninstitute.org to be put on our mailing list or see www.growingwatersmart.org for more information.

Blog post by Waverly Klaw, director, resilient communities and watersheds