South Metro drops plans to export Ark Valley water — The Pueblo Chieftain

WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority
WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A new long-term plan by the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which serves 13 water providers in the greater Denver-Aurora area, avoids any mention of taking water from the Arkansas River basin.

That’s significant, because the group’s 2007 master plan included two possible pipeline routes from the Arkansas River basin as a way of filling future water supply needs. Located in some of the fastest-growing areas of Colorado, South Metro’s population increased to 325,000 in 2016 from 250,000 in 2005.

South Metro communities were built on water from the Denver Basin aquifer, but began shifting their focus to finding new renewable supplies, conservation and increasing efficiency as ways to stretch their supplies.

“I think our members wanted to focus on projects that are on a foreseeable timetable,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the authority. “The study confirms our region’s tremendous progress toward securing a sustainable water future. There is more to be done, but there is no question we are on the right path.”

With Pure Cycle’s sale of its Fort Lyon Canal water rights last year, no South Metro member has any projects planned in the Arkansas Valley. Pure Cycle is connected to the emerging Rangeview district east of Aurora.

Annual demand for South Metro is expected to more than double to 120,000 acre-feet (39 billion gallons) by 2065. Increased storage, expanded use of the WISE agreement with Denver and Aurora and continuing conservation efforts are expected to fill 38,400 acre-feet in the next 50 years.

The WISE agreement allows South Metro areas to reuse return flows from the Denver area through Aurora’s Prairie Waters Project. Reuter-Hess Reservoir and the East Cherry Creek Valley pipeline have opened new ways to use water. Per capita use in the South Metro area has decreased 30 percent since 2000.

Another 30,000 acre-feet annually of new supplies still are needed by 2065, according to the revised master plan released Tuesday. About two-thirds of that supply is identified in existing projects, but the plan proposes finding the remainder through cooperative agreements with other users in the South Platte and through the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Hecox said.

Finally, individual members of the South Metro group are developing innovative solutions. For instance, Sterling Ranch is harvesting rainwater and incorporating conservation into land-use design. Other communities have initiated landscape regulations and some are even paying property owners to remove turf or plants that use excessive amounts of water. Some rate structures have been changed to promote conservation.

The new plan fits in with Colorado’s Water Plan, which seeks collaborative solutions rather than buying agricultural water rights and drying up farmland.

“A remarkable transformation is happening in the South Metro region,” said James Eklund, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation board. “Colorado’s Water Plan calls for innovative water management and this study demonstrates how this important region is transitioning to a more sustainable water supply.”

SMWSA: South Metro Denver on Path to Sustainable Water Future

Here’s the release from the South Metro Water Supply Authority:

  • SMWSA Master Plan shows tremendous progress transitioning to renewable water
  • South Metro region now a state leader in conservation, efficiency and reuse
  • Hecox: ‘More to be done, but there is no question we are on the right path’
  • The South Denver Metro region has made tremendous progress securing a sustainable water future over the past 12 years thanks to aggressive efforts to conserve water, maximize efficiency and invest in renewable water supplies, according to the results of the 2016 South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA) Master Plan Update.

    “A remarkable transformation is happening in the South Metro region,” said James Eklund, director of the state’s water agency and architect of Colorado’s Water Plan. “Colorado’s Water Plan calls for innovative water management and this study demonstrates how this important region is transitioning to a more sustainable water supply.”

    South Metro Water Supply Authority boundaries
    South Metro Water Supply Authority boundaries

    The report, produced by SMWSA and its technical consultant, CH2M, is the most definitive study of water demand and supplies of the region in nearly a decade.

    “The study confirms our region’s tremendous progress toward securing a sustainable water future,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of SMWSA. “There is more to be done, but there is no question we are on the right path.”

    Historically many communities in the region relied on nonrenewable groundwater from the Denver Basin Aquifer system for much of their water supply. For some, it was their only water supply as recently as 12 years ago. The significant decline in groundwater levels was unsustainable and threatened to undermine the region’s economic vitality and overall quality of life.

    Recognizing the challenge, water providers joined forces in 2004 to create SMWSA and develop a plan. The result of that work to date is outlined in the Master Plan update:

  • Transition to renewable water: In 2004, less than half of the region’s water supply came from renewable sources. By 2020, more than three-fourths (78 percent) of the region’s water supply will come from renewable water supplies, according to the study. This marks a significant transformation of the region’s water supply. By 2065, a full 85 percent of the region’s supplies will come from renewable sources, according to the study. Notably, this progress is being made despite a projected 130 percent increase in total water demand over the same period.
  • Investment in renewable water projects: This transition to renewable water is the result of a number of regional projects that communities throughout the region have invested in, including WISE, the Chatfield Reallocation Project, Reuter Hess Reservoir, the ACCWA/ECCV Northern Project, Castle Rock’s Plum Creek Water Purification Facility and many more.
  • Leading in conservation: The South Metro region has established itself as a leader in conservation and water stewardship with some of the strongest and most effective conservation efforts of any region in the state. Per capita water demand in the region decreased by 30 percent since 2000. The region now boasts among the lowest consumption rates in the state.
  • Maximizing efficiency: SMWSA and its members are maximizing water efficiency by reusing water to the fullest extent possible. “This is tremendous progress given the immense water challenges the region faced just 12 years ago,” said Mike Fitzgerald, president and CEO of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership. “We are on a path to a secure and sustainable water supply, which is critical to maintaining our region’s excellent quality of life and economic vitality for future generations.”
  • More Work Ahead

    While the region is on track to meet projected demand as far out as 2065, more work is needed to ensure that happens, Hecox said.

    Future possible projects and plans include adding new supply and storage, groundwater management, conservation and efficiency.

    “We must execute on current plans, continue our conservation efforts, build our renewable supplies and maximize what we have through reuse,” Hecox said. “If we continue the course, we will deliver on our promise of a secure water future for the region.”

    WISE water project honored — Castle Rock News-Press

    WISE Project map via Denver Water
    WISE Project map via Denver Water

    From the South Metro Water Supply Authority via The Castle Rock News-Press:

    The South Metro [Water Supply] Authority received a 2016 Metro Vision Award from the Denver Regional Council of Governments for the WISE Partnership.

    The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership (WISE) is a regional water supply project between Aurora Water, Denver Water and members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. First conceived in 2008, the partnership combines water supplies and system capacities to create a sustainable new water supply for the region.

    The WISE Partnership will benefit roughly 2 million people and it will bring a sustainable water supply to south metro communities. When water deliveries begin in early 2017, some of Colorado’s fastest-growing communities will be able to partially replace non-renewable groundwater.

    DRCOG’s Metro Vision awards are presented to individuals and programs who contribute outstanding efforts to the Denver region and its communities, and to DRCOG’s programs and activities. The regional council has been honoring outstanding achievements for more than 30 years.

    Providers utilizing the Denver Basin Aquifer are moving towards supply security

    Denver Basin aquifer map
    Denver Basin aquifer map

    From the Centennial Citizen (Paul Donahue and Eric Hecox):

    Is our water future secure?

    It’s a question on the minds of many in Castle Rock and the entire south metro Denver region — and for good reason. After all, water is what makes our outstanding quality of life possible. If we want future generations to enjoy our communities as we do, we must ensure they have access to a secure and sustainable water supply that meets their future needs.

    From conversations throughout the region, we know Castle Rock residents and those in the entire south metro area understand the critical role water plays in delivering the quality of life we desire for our children, in addition to supporting property values, job creation and economic growth.

    We know residents are aware the region historically has relied too heavily on declining groundwater supplies and must diversify its supply for long-term sustainability. We know they view water as a top priority for the region and support an all-of-the-above approach that includes conservation and reuse, storage and new renewable supplies.

    We also know Castle Rock residents as well as residents across the south metro area value partnership among leaders throughout the region to get the job done in the most economically responsible manner. Working together to secure water rights, build infrastructure and efficiently use storage space helps spread the costs and the benefits to customers throughout the region.

    The answer to the question on people’s minds is not clear-cut. While our region is on the path to delivering a secure water future for generations to come, this effort is ongoing and will require continued support from our communities to see it through to the end.

    The good news is that we have a plan, and we are executing that plan.

    Thanks to innovative conservation approaches, the region has seen a 30 percent decrease in per capita water use since 2000. That means the typical south metro household or business, including those in Castle Rock, is using 30 percent less water than just 15 years ago. Declines in the region’s underground aquifers — historically the main water source for the region — have slowed considerably in that same time period, a testament to efforts across the region to diversify water supplies and maximize efficiency through reuse.

    At the same time, major new water infrastructure projects are coming online throughout the region that bring new renewable supplies, storage capacity and reuse capabilities. These include the WISE (Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency) Partnership with Denver Water, Aurora and several other regional organizations including Castle Rock Water, the Chatfield Reallocation Project, Rueter-Hess Reservoir, the Northern Project and Castle Rock’s Plum Creek Purification Facility, to name a few.

    The 13 members that make up the South Metro Water Supply Authority provide water to 80 percent of Douglas County and 10 percent of Arapahoe County. Together, they are partnering among each other as well as with local government leadership and water entities across the region and state to execute their plan to secure a sustainable water future for the region.

    Since becoming a member of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Castle Rock Water has helped lead implementation of the WISE project, new water storage reservoir projects and other regional renewable water supply efforts. WISE water will be available to Castle Rock residents by 2017 and even earlier for some of the other South Metro residents. A project like WISE represents as much as 10 percent of the renewable water needed for both current and future residents in Castle Rock.

    The members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, including Castle Rock, each have long-term water plans. Through partnerships, these projects are made possible by sharing in the needed investments and other resources when completing the time-consuming task of acquiring additional renewable water and building the required infrastructure.

    This collaboration is supported by the state and is in line with the Colorado Water Plan. This regional support has been critical in providing feasible strategies to ensure water for future generations.

    Is our water future secure? No, not yet. But we’re well on our way to getting there.

    Paul Donahue is the mayor of Castle Rock and has served on the town council for eight years. Eric Hecox is the director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a regional water authority made up of 13 water provider members that collectively serve more than 300,000 residents as well as businesses in the south metro Denver area. South Metro Water’s membership spans much of Douglas County and parts of Arapahoe County, including Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, Parker and Castle Pines.

    A shift to renewable water in south metro area — The Denver Post

    WISE Project map via Denver Water
    WISE Project map via Denver Water

    From The Denver Post (Eric Hecox and Diane Hoppe):

    After decades of drawing down nonrenewable groundwater aquifers, the region of 300,000 people spanning most of Douglas County and some of Arapahoe County is transitioning to sustainable supplies. This provides much-needed security to future generations hoping to call south Denver home.

    The latest success came last month when a first-of-its-kind partnership among the metro region’s three major water entities — Denver Water, Aurora Water and South Metro Water Supply Authority — received unprecedented statewide support.

    The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency (WISE) project now stands alone as the only water project in Colorado to receive funding from basin roundtables across the state. The Colorado Water Conservation Board, the state of Colorado’s lead agency on water, also provided grant money in support of WISE.

    The reason for the broad support lies in the collaborative approach that has been the hallmark of South Metro Water’s plans. WISE is widely seen as a way for a growing part of the metro area to cooperatively help solve some of its own water supply issues…

    When WISE water deliveries begin in 2016, some of Colorado’s fastest-growing communities will receive a new sustainable water supply. Participating South Metro members include Highlands Ranch (served by Centennial Water), Cottonwood, Dominion, Inverness, Meridian, Parker, Pinery Water, Rangeview, Stonegate and Castle Rock.

    At the same time, Denver Water will receive a new back-up supply, and Aurora Water will receive funding to help offset costs of its Prairie Waters project.

    WISE is a significant part of South Metro’s plan for a sustainable water future. Combined with other infrastructure investments in supply, storage and reuse, and aggressive conservation efforts that have seen per capita use drop by 30 percent in the past decade, we are witnessing a seismic transition.

    In 2003, the Rocky Mountain News ran an explosive three-day series, “Running Dry,” on what many perceived as a looming water crisis in the south metro region. At the time, aquifers in some parts of the region were being drawn down at a rate of about 30 feet per year and the vast majority of the region’s water came from nonrenewable sources. A year later, local water providers joined together to create the South Metro Water Supply Authority and started creating the plan that is being executed now.

    Today, annual aquifer declines are one-sixth of what they used to be and continue to decrease. And while areas such as Highlands Ranch are already mostly renewable, the region as a whole is on track to receive the majority of its supplies from renewable sources by 2020.

    That’s remarkable headway in a short period of time given the complexities of water planning.

    The region still has more work ahead. But given the progress to date and with continuing support for South Metro Water’s plans and projects, we can feel confident in predicting that the days of alarming headlines around the south metro region’s water future are in the past.

    Eric Hecox is the director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Diane Hoppe is a former state representative and current chair of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    #WISE Water Project Receives Unprecedented Statewide Support — South Metro Water Supply Authority

    WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority
    WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority

    Here’s the release from the South Metro Water Supply Authority (Russ Rizzo):

    The WISE water project today received unprecedented statewide support, becoming the first water infrastructure project in Colorado to receive funding from Basin Roundtables across the state.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved $905,000 in state and regional grant funding for the WISE (Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency) project, including funds from seven of the state’s nine Basin Roundtables.

    “We are excited and grateful for the broad, statewide support for this important project,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, which represents 13 water providers comprising most of Douglas County and a portion of Arapahoe County. “This is a significant part of our region’s plan to transition to a more secure and sustainable water supply, and benefits of WISE extend throughout the region and to the West Slope.”

    WISE is a partnership among Aurora Water, Denver Water and South Metro Water to combine available water supplies and system capacities to create a sustainable new water supply. Aurora and Denver will provide fully treated water to South Metro Water on a permanent basis. WISE also will enable Denver Water to access its supplies during periods when it needs to. All of this will be accomplished while allowing Aurora to continue to meet its customers’ current and future needs.

    “This project is reflective of the regional and statewide collaboration the State Water Plan calls for to meet the future water needs of Coloradans,” said former State Representative Diane Hoppe, chair of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “The broad financial support from Basin Roundtables across the state reflects the cooperation and smart approach that the Denver metro area’s leading water providers have taken.”

    The Basin Roundtables, created in 2005 with the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act, represent each of the state’s eight major river basins and the Denver metropolitan area. The grants are part of the state’s Water Supply Reserve Accounts program that assists Colorado water users in addressing their critical water supply issues and interests.

    Roundtables that have committed funds to WISE so far include:

    Metro Basin Roundtable
    South Platte Basin Roundtable
    North Platte Basin Roundtable
    Colorado Basin Roundtable
    Arkansas Basin Roundtable
    Gunnison Basin Roundtable
    Yampa/White/Green Basin Roundtable

    “The Colorado Basin applauds the WISE participants for their forward thinking and collaborative approach,” said Jim Pokrandt, chair of the Colorado Basin Roundtable, which includes Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs. “WISE benefits not just the Front Range but the West Slope as well. The project enables the metro region to re-use its trans-mountain supplies, thereby reducing the need to look to other regions for water supply. In addition, the WISE agreement is an integral part of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement under which the West Slope receives funding to help meet our water project and environmental needs.”

    Construction on the WISE project began in June and will continue into 2016. When WISE begins delivering water in 2016:

    ●The South Denver Metro area will receive a significant new renewable water supply;
    ●Denver will receive a new backup water supply;
    ●Aurora will receive funding from partners to help offset its Prairie Waters Project costs and stabilize water rates; and
    ●The West Slope will receive new funding, managed by the Colorado River Water Conservation District, for water supply, watershed and water quality projects.

    Securing a Sustainable Water Supply for South Metro Denver

    South Metro Water and its 13 water provider members are executing a plan to transition to renewable supplies. The plan focuses on three areas: conservation and efficiency; infrastructure investment; and partnership among local and regional water suppliers.

    The region has made tremendous progress over the past decade, reducing per capita water use by more than 30 percent and adding new renewable water supplies and storage capacity that have significantly decreased reliance on nonrenewable groundwater.

    For details on the WISE project as well as South Metro Water’s plan to transition to renewable water supplies, visit http://www.southmetrowater.org.

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable ponies up $10,000 for WISE project

    wise_SimpleFromDenverWater

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    It didn’t quite amount to paying northern cities to stay out of the Arkansas River basin…but it could help.

    The Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday agreed to chip in $10,000 to a multimillion-dollar project by the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership, but only if Aurora promises not to use it to create an artificial trigger for more leases from the Arkansas River basin.

    The money is just a show of support for a $6.4 million component that would get the right mix of water into a pipeline that connects Aurora’s $800 million Prairie Waters Project with a $120 million pipeline south of Denver to meet the future needs of 14 water providers who are members of the South Metro Water Authority.

    Seven of the state’s nine roundtables, including the Colorado River basin, have contributed $85,000 to the project. Two roundtables are set to act on requests for $20,000 in the next two months, and another $800,000 is being sought from a state fund. WISE is ponying up $5.5 million.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board will be asked to approve the grants in September.

    WISE would deliver up to 10,000 acre-feet annually of reused water primarily brought into the South Platte River basin by Denver and Aurora. Its backbone would be nearly $1 billion in existing infrastructure.

    The $6.4 million would be for a treatment plant that would blend Prairie Waters and well water in the East Cherry Creek Village pipeline. That would relieve demand on Denver Aquifer groundwater and the need for cities to buy farm water — including Arkansas Valley water — said Eric Hecox, executive director of the South Metro group.

    “In the big scheme of things, this is important because it meets a need in a big gap area,” Hecox said.

    The proposal caused unease for water conservancy districts which have agreements with Aurora, however.

    “The city of Aurora transfers water out of the Arkansas basin,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. “This project increases demand on Aurora’s supplies. I’m not OK with this unless there is some sort of amendment that says if (a storage shortfall) is triggered, they won’t come back into the basin.”

    Aurora signed agreements with the Upper Ark, Southeastern and Lower Ark districts over the past 12 years that limit new leases from the Arkansas Valley. There are numerous requirements of how Aurora uses and stores water that factor into a complex equation.

    The roundtable agreed that the benefits of reducing demand on the Denver Basin aquifer in northern El Paso County would help the Arkansas Valley. The WISE project would also slow, but not necessarily stop, future water raids in the Arkansas Valley.

    Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district, asked Hecox about South Metro’s 2006 master plan that included future Arkansas River projects as options. Hecox said a new master plan is being developed that does not contain those projects.

    “So you can come into the Arkansas basin?” Winner asked.

    “Legally, yes,” Hecox replied. “But we have no plans to.”

    In the end, the roundtable endorsed the $10,000 token support, but only on the condition that Aurora formally assures the three districts and the roundtable that WISE won’t be used as an excuse to take more Arkansas River water.

    More WISE project coverage here.