Water Lines: Weaning Front Range water users to benefit Colorado’s Western Slope
Free Press Opionion Columnist
As more and more Coloradans rely on stable-to-diminishing water supplies, all water basins have a common interest in working together to meet the state’s future water needs. The West Slope has a tangible interest in efforts by communities in the South Metro area of the Front Range to find a path to a more secure water future while minimizing the need to look to the West Slope for supplies.
The South Metro Water Authority’s 14 water-provider members deliver water to more than 300,000 residents in Douglas County and Arapahoe County in an area that is growing in both population and economic importance.
Historically, the region has relied too heavily on nonrenewable groundwater aquifers. This raised concerns that this region would be forced to look to the West Slope for new supplies.
A study completed in 2003 confirmed that the aquifers on which the region was relying were not sustainable and recommended a combination of conservation, reuse and other strategies to address the problem.
The strategy begins with conservation. South Metro water provider members have reduced per capita water consumption by 30 percent since 2000 and continue to innovate to reduce water use. South Metro water providers serving Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch are among only three in the state that put customers on a water budget that tracks use by household. Throughout the region, water providers are incentivizing smart water use through turf replacement and other conservation measures.
South Metro Water members are also leaders in the state in water reuse. Two members — serving Inverness and Meridian — reuse 100 percent of collected wastewater. New state-of-the-art treatment plants have come online in recent years that significantly increase our region’s ability to reuse water.
The 2012 Colorado Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and West Slope water providers gave the opportunity to broaden regional collaboration and expand water reuse.
The agreement also allowed Denver Water, Aurora Water and South Metro Water to enter the innovative Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) Project. The WISE project involves capturing and re-using treated Denver and Aurora wastewater from the South Platte River that would otherwise flow downstream.
West Slope water providers agreed to allow Denver Water to extend its service area to the South Metro region through the WISE project in exchange for other measures — to reduce the impacts of existing transmountain diversion on the West Slope and limits on the ability of both Denver Water and the South Metro water providers to pursue future transbasin diversions.
To learn more about South Metro Water’s efforts to secure a sustainable water future, go to http://www.southmetrowater.org.
Eric Hecox is director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Hannah Holm contributed to this column. This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center on Facebook at Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or Twitter at Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.
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