A new bill has been brought to the Colorado Capitol this month in the hopes to encourage local governments to include conservation measures for its existing water supply if it is identified that the city or town will require more water to grow. “In a state that hates mandates, this is a gentle nudge for communities to make sure they are planning for the future when it comes to water,” said state Rep. Jeni Arndt, a Fort Collins Democrat who is bringing the bill.
With a goal of 75% of Coloradans living in communities that have incorporated water-saving actions into land-use planning by 2025, efforts have increased to have communities participate in training programs for planning integration. Currently, 24 communities have completed the Sonoran Institute’s Growing Water Smart Training, a leading program that helps communities integrate land use planning and water conservation efforts. “With a growing population in Colorado, it is imperative to synchronize land and water planning to help planners to better understand the impact of new growth and redevelopment on future water demand in our urban areas,” said Sara Leonard, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
House Bill 1095 is proposing to require water conservation policies within a municipality’s comprehensive plan if that plan includes a water supply element. A comprehensive plan is an advisory document that outlines long term goals for community development, and often includes guidelines for things like transportation, utilities, land use, environmental protection, recreation and housing. The reason this bill has been proposed is that while state statute requires every municipality to have a comprehensive plan, it does not require an inclusion of any water elements to the plan.
Gretel Follingstad, a Colorado-based land use planner and consultant who specializes in water resource management, believes that Colorado lags behind other states in terms of integrating water conservation into land use plans. And that lack of governmental guidance has created a false sense of security for some communities. “Everybody has to do something in order to create sustainability,” she said. “And this [Bill] is a way of making sure that towns and communities across Colorado, No. 1, understand that there is a state water plan and that the goals in that plan are real and serious and have consequences. And two, that there is a way at the local level that they can make a difference.”
 Clark, Moe “Water is Colorado’s most critical resource. So why isn’t it central to every local land-use decision?” The Colorado Sun, 11 Feb. 2020, https://coloradosun.com/2020/02/11/colorado-water-supply-land-use-planning/.
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