Sonoran Institute celebrates the crucial steps the City of Longmont has taken—from attending the Growing Water Smart workshop, adding staff focused on sustainability, to making sure their goals match the changing climate.
The team from Longmont, Colorado participated in the Growing Water Smart workshop in August of 2020. The growing city is home to nearly 100,000 people and faces long-term drought along with its neighbors on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Like other teams that attend our workshops, they learned about the process of integrating land use and water planning to increase sustainability. The workshop offered the team of elected officials, local leaders, city staff, and water providers “a great opportunity to pull together staff from across the organization to brainstorm how to expand partnerships and water conservation,” shared Francie Jaffe, water conservation and sustainability specialist for the City of Longmont.
When the group wrapped up the workshop, they had an action plan tailored to meet their goals. Many of these actions connected to a new environmental sustainability planner position. The discussions during the workshop highlighted opportunities for collaboration and innovation because the new role complements Francie’s position.
When Hannah Mulroy came on board a few months later, she had to be ready to coordinate the policies, regulations, and programs to help the rapidly growing city develop and protect the environment at the same time. As a liaison between the Planning and Development Services Department and the Public Works & Natural Resources Department, her role increases collaboration across government departments. She advises on conservation issues, reviews potential new developments or annexations, advises developers on compliance with environmental regulations, and provides public education on sustainability. Because her role links many colleagues across departments and connects with many public interests, her position is a hub to promote conservation.
“I see residents get excited about sustainable planning when they get involved…”
–Hannah Mulroy, Environmental/Sustainability Planner, City of Longmont
There are many ways people in Longmont can take part in conservation. Hannah says, “I see residents get excited about sustainable planning when they get involved—join an advisory group, volunteer, or take part in the effort to transform lawns from turf to native grasses. Several community groups have sprung up over the years, each with a unique focus from preserving the St. Vrain Creek to protecting our local prairie dog population. People also become involved in the development process by participating in City meetings and speaking with City staff.”
Locals tell City staff like Hannah and Francie that water conservation is important. They share their worries about the drought in Colorado and note rising utility costs, especially larger irrigation bills. Hannah states, “I hear from residents, homeowner association (HOA) representatives, businesses that they are concerned about water conservation and the cost of irrigation, and specifically that they are interested in low-irrigation landscaping, but aren’t sure how to install, establish, or maintain these areas.” Hannah, Francie and their colleagues help get residents started and achieve long-term water savings goals.
Hannah, Francie and their colleagues help get residents started and achieve long-term water savings goals.
To help meet the concerns that residents and HOAs have about water use, Francie partners with the Community and Neighborhood Resources division to foster opportunities where community members can share with one another. Over the summer “we presented at a Neighborhood Leadership Series, and there were even more groups who were interested in exploring water saving landscapes in their own neighborhoods.” Francie said. The groups “were really excited to share their stories and savings.”
Francie also supports residents with gardening workshops and irrigation assessments—promoting landscapes that conserve water, save money, and look great. Hannah and Francie are not the only ones at the City doing this work, they both collaborate with other staff from Stormwater, Parks and Open Space, and other groups to plan, manage, and implement water-saving and low-impact development programs and projects, set conservation goals, and identify ways to improve sustainable water use across City departments and agencies.
Longmont aims to “reduce customer and City raw water demands by approximately 10% by buildout (assumed to be 2048).” The city’s challenges mirror those of other Front Range locales: much of their water comes from the wetter West Slope on the far side of the Rocky Mountains. The current megadrought has brought less snowpack and rain in recent years impacting Colorado and the entire Colorado River Basin. “With direction from the Climate Action Recommendations Report, we will evaluate a more ambitious water conservation goal to address climate change impacts vs. keeping with our current goal. We plan to start this process sometime next year,” explains Francie.
“…we will evaluate a more ambitious water conservation goal to address climate change impacts…”
–Francie Jaffe, water conservation and sustainability specialist, City of Longmont
Sonoran Institute celebrates the crucial steps the City of Longmont has taken—from attending the Growing Water Smart workshop, adding staff focused on sustainability, to making sure their goals match the changing climate. The team members demonstrate the benefits of collaboration to successfully link sustainable planning and water conservation. The two agree that they have seen an increase in collaboration at the municipal level, with Hannah explaining, “My position is new to the City of Longmont, and a part of my job is to help facilitate collaboration among city staff, developers, elected officials, and members of the public to better integrate sustainability, water conservation, and land use. I aim to continue to bridge the gap in a way that allows staff to effectively collaborate and work towards achieving our goals.” Collaboration and the community-based approach to conservation are the founding principles of Sonoran Institute—and it’s no secret that they are key to enduring conservation success.