Connecting Plans to the Water Supply

The city of Westminster, Colorado has grown from 10,000 in 1962 to 113,000 in the present day, ensuring water supply for the growing population by considering water efficiency in every zoning decision.

May 7, 2019, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Colorado

Westminster, Colorado. | Kit Leong / Shutterstock

Jason Plautz reports on the sustainable development planning practices of the city of Westminster, Colorado, which weathered the controversies of a drought during the summer of 1962 (a sprinkler ban and poor tap water quality inspired a "Mothers' March" and attracted national news coverage) to become a regional leader in water demand management. 

In the years that followed the drought, Westminster settled its supply issues, but "continued to focus on taming demand, most recently with a conservation and planning approach that’s become a regional model for managing growth without straining resources."

The key to this approach is a novel approach to land use planning that relies on water data to inform sustainable decision making.

That meant city planners could identify where it might make more sense to zone for multifamily housing, or see where new pipes might be necessary. Developers could amend their permits to include more low-flow toilets or water recycling. On rare occasions, proposals have been scrapped because they’d need more water than the city could supply. Essentially, Westminster is planning for the worst, making sure that another drought won’t force anyone to turn off the taps.

Stu Feinglas, Westminster’s recently retired senior water-resources analyst, serves as a source for soundbites and explanations of the Westminster water-focused planning approach throughout the article.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 in CityLab

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