Water efficiency will play an important role in balancing the need for additional water supply with strategies to lessen that need. By implementing a comprehensive, statewide approach for water efficiency, CWCB and other state agencies will strengthen programs from the local to the state level. Much like TMDs, agricultural water transfers, and storage, efficiency is a “silver-bullets;” however, they are critical components of strategies to address future needs. The creation of scalable technical resources, support of local initiatives through financial incentives, and best-practices sharing will bolster water efficiency.
Demand side water management strategies will help Colorado close the water supply gap while minimizing trade-offs that other solutions might create. Increased water efficiency as well as water reuse, and better integration of land use and water planning will help maintain a healthy environment, promote livable and sustainable cities, and preserve agricultural production into the future.
Water efficiency activities can reduce water demands and thereby assist providers in avoiding, downsizing, or postponing the construction and operation of water supply facilities and wastewater facilities—as well as eliminating, reducing, or postponing water purchases. In addition to these water supply benefits, Colorado can achieve other societal, political, and environmental benefits, including:
- Reduced wastewater discharges through indoor water savings, which can improve water quality and aquatic habitat
- Demonstration of a commitment to sustainability
- The meeting of political and regulatory requirements necessary to obtain permitting for local and regional water supply projects
- Delay of capital costs for new projects
The State is wise to invest funds for implementing water efficiency activities statewide. These are some of the most inexpensive implementation strategies today, and will allow local water providers to be more efficient with the water resources they already have.
When Everyone Conserves, Everyone Saves
- Water Loss Control & Management
Water loss control and management is one of the highest priorities for urban water systems across the globe. As infrastructure ages, real losses (leaks) and apparent losses (meter inaccuracies, data handling errors) increase and valuable water resources and revenue are lost. Urban water distribution systems benefit greatly from a comprehensive diagnostic approach to auditing their systems so they can reduce losses to an economically manageable level and maintain the value and integrity of their water systems.
Colorado Water Loss Initiative
In August 2018, the Colorado Water Conservation Board launched the Colorado Water Loss Initiative, a comprehensive program using the American Water Works Association (AWWA) M36 water loss methodology for training and providing technical assistance for urban water systems across Colorado. This program is part of a strategic objective from the Colorado Water Plan: to support water management activities for all water providers.
The focus of the program will be the AWWA M36 water audit, the free AWWA Water Audit Software and associated WRF 4639 Level 1 Validation methodology. The AWWA M36 water audit methodology is the recommended best practice in North America to support informed decision making for water loss control and revenue recovery. Cost-effective water loss management reduces cost, increases revenue, serving the utility's bottom line and the rate-payer alike.
Resources related to this training opportunity can be found on the external site coloradowaterloss.org/resources
The CWCB conducted a study on water loss activity in Colorado in 2009. This was an exploratory survey to assess the state of water loss in Colorado and provided insights for present day programs.
The AWWA Water Loss Control Committee has created this best practice methodology over the years. The committee is staffed by volunteers from all over the world who create and define the accepted water loss best practices Colorado is using now.
- Water Efficiency Web Portal (HB10-1051 Reporting)
The purpose of the HB10-1051 data reporting, per Section 37-60-126(4.5)(a), C.R.S., is to provide water use and conservation data for statewide water supply planning. The data collection process is designed to provide better, more frequent, and more reliable data than currently available through standardized reporting requirements by each covered entity as defined in the HB10-1051 Guidelines. However, this does not necessarily standardize the data collection process and does not require entities to change their data/billing systems to report in a particular format.
While the Colorado Water Conservation Board makes every attempt to verify the submitted data, data handling errors occur. The Colorado Water Conservation Board does not manipulate the submitted data but simply makes this data available “as-is”. The Colorado Water Conservation Board and/or Colorado Department of Natural Resources shall not be held liable for improper or incorrect use of the data described or information contained on these pages. These data, information, and related tables are not legal documents and are not intended to be used as such. The user should exercise caution in using the data without a proper QA/QC process and without understanding the context from which the submitted data originates. The Water Efficiency Data Portal supports the annual reporting process and allows covered entities to describe data collection and preparation metadata, as well as any cases where certain definitions in these Guidelines are not directly applicable. The statewide and basinwide planning efforts are not intended to replace water conservation, water resource planning, nor projections prepared by local entities for project-specific purposes. This data alone it is not intended to be used to provide comparisons between utilities.
Water Efficiency Data Portal Instructions:
First-time Users -
- Email the Data Portal Administrator at email@example.com for creating an account and login
- Sign in and select "Download Data" from the top menu and follow the instructions there
- Water Efficiency Planning
Water efficiency planning is a necessary tool in a water provider’s water resource planning efforts in order to meeting long-term water supply needs. Water efficiency planning, drought planning, and water supply reliability planning are interrelated and should be examined in an integrated manner. An integrated approach can help water providers identify where future planning efforts need to be focused. Providers should examine how water efficiency affects future water supply and demand needs in relation to the need for and the costs of new water supplies and other investments.
According to Colorado’s Water Conservation Act of 2004 (HB04-1365) requires all covered entities (retail water providers that sell 2,000 acre-feet (AF) or more on an annual basis) to have a state approved water efficiency plan containing certain required minimum plan elements described in the CWCB’s Water Efficiency Plan Guidelines.
Municipal Water Efficiency Plan Guidance Document
The Municipal Water Efficiency Plan Guidance Document (Guidance Document) is an update to the Water Conservation Plan Development Guidance Document developed in 2005. The Guidance Document serves as a reference tool for water providers and local governments throughout the State of Colorado for developing State approved local water efficiency plans. Additionally, CWCB added the addendum Best Practices for Implementing Water Conservation & Demand Management Through Land Use Planning Efforts in 2019 to assist in satisfying a new minimum plan element.
Studies & Tools:
Water Efficiency Planning Grants:
The CWCB provides technical assistance as well as grant money to covered entities seeking to develop or update Water Efficiency Plans.
- Water Efficient Landscapes & Irrigation
Through CWCB grants both South Metro Water Authority and the City of Aspen hosted Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) trainings. South Metro developed a full certification pilot program along with their training that is specific to Colorado and adapted from the California based training manual.
- Alternative Water Supplies
Precipitation Harvesting Pilot Program
H.B. 09-1129 addressed one of the recommendations from the Holistic Approach to Sustainable Water Management in Northwest Douglas County study with the authorization of up to ten pilot projects for new residential or mixed-use developments, providing an opportunity to further evaluate implementation of rainwater and snowmelt harvesting in Colorado (collectively referred to as “rainwater harvesting”). The CWCB and Division of Water Resources oversee the first Precipitation Harvesting Pilot Project in Colorado creating Criteria and Guidelines for applications and the selection of pilot projects.
The goal of the pilot project program is to gain additional field-verified information about the feasibility of rainwater harvesting as a water conservation measure in Colorado, through pairing it directly with advanced outdoor water demand management – particularly efficient landscaping and irrigation practices.
The Division of Water Resources has developed a set of Regional Factors, as defined by House Bill 15-1016 (need to put on Legislation page), to provide an estimate of pre-development consumptive use. These Factors can be used in a Substitute Water Supply Plan until a Pilot Project obtains an augmentation plan for permanent operation. DWR presented the Regional Factors and supporting documents for public comment during July 2019. Revised criteria and guidelines were adopted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board on September 18, 2019.
- Beginner's Guide to Rainwater Harvesting Pilot Projects and Regional Factors (pdf)
- Report on HB15-1016 Rainwater Harvesting Pilot Projects Regional Factors (pdf)
Graywater capture and use was approved in Colorado in 2014 through HB 13-1044 and regulated through Regulation 86 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division. Although graywater is legal statewide, each local jurisdiction must opt in by adopting a local ordinance.
- Through a CWCB Water Plan Grant, Greyter Water Systems has teamed with Lennar Homes and Denver Water to install graywater systems plus advanced leak detection in 40 new homes in 2020. This is the first larger scale implementation of graywater systems in new construction in Colorado.
- View the article about the project here.
- Water Efficient Oriented Rates & Tap Fees
Water efficient rates and tap fees are indispensable tools for every water utility. Proper rate setting brings in the revenue needed for operations and rate structures that encourage water efficiency are one tool that maintains water demand at efficient levels. Additionally, water efficient tap fees encourage new development to be “water smart from the start”. A new building or development can receive incentives for building in water efficient best practices during construction to lessen the strain on urban water systems.
Through a CWCB Water Plan grant, Western Resource Advocates created this comprehensive guidebook for local water providers to implement water efficient tap fee design in their utilities.
AWE’s Financing Sustainable Water
The CWCB and the Alliance for Water Efficiency partnered to bring two water rate workshops to Glenwood Springs and the Denver metro area in 2017. Sustainable water rates are key to addressing the looming water supply and demand gap in Colorado.
Developing rate structures that successfully balance revenue management, resource efficiency, and fiscal sustainability is becoming more challenging in a world of scarce supply, volatile weather, and declining demand. Some of the innovative resources and strategies highlighted at the workshops that will help Colorado water managers navigate these challenges, included:
- Strategies to model and evaluate rates that achieve revenue stability AND incentivize efficiency
- Policies and planning tools to enhance utilities’ financial outlook
- How cost-effective efficiency programs support revenue management and fiscal sustainability
- Changing demand trends and implications for rate-making and water efficiency
- Tools to embrace uncertainty and navigate the “known unknowns” facing Colorado water providers
- Steps to meet Colorado State Water Plan goals, such as scenario planning, adaptive strategies, incorporating the true costs of water into rate design, and exploring alternative water rate designs.
Workshop Presentations & Tools:
- Resources & Organizations