A statewide conversation on Colorado’s Water Plan: tune in on the radio or online this Sunday

Join radio listeners around Colorado for a statewide conversation on Colorado’s Water Plan during a live call-in discussion this Sunday January 25th from 5-6 pm. Hear from James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board; Jim Pokrandt with the Colorado River Water Conservation District; and Chris Woodka with the Pueblo Chieftain. Listen online or on the radio with KGNU, KRCC, KDNK and other community radio stations across the state. Your calls and questions will be welcome at 800-737-3030, engage online by emailing water@kdnk.org or join the discussion on Twitter using #cowaterplan.   Hear about the basics of the water plan, how you can get engaged, what input is still needed and phone in to ask your questions and direct the discussion. Don’t forget, that’s this Sunday January 25th from 5-6 pm, part of Connecting the Drops, a collaboration between the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and Rocky Mountain Community Radio Stations.

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A conversation with Jim Lochhead and Eric Kuhn on water supply, transbasin diversions, conservation and more

Transbasin diversions have had a long, changing and important history redistributing water across Colorado.  In partnership, the Colorado Water Congress and Colorado Foundation for Water Education coordinated a series of webinars looking at these projects and exploring questions that are arising in the drafting of Colorado’s Water Plan. The final webinar was a video-cast conversation between Denver Water’s Jim Lochhead and the Colorado River District’s Eric Kuhn. After a lively conversation, a few questions from listeners went unanswered. Below are some thoughts from Jim Lochhead and Eric Kuhn responding to those participant questions. 

Panelists Jim Lochhead and Eric Kuhn, prompted by moderator Dan Luecke, discuss Colorado's transbasin diversions.

Panelists Jim Lochhead and Eric Kuhn, prompted by moderator Dan Luecke, discuss Colorado’s transbasin diversions.

Q: While big projects may be a long way off, the IBCC keeps referencing possible new transbasin diversions on the Yampa, Green or Gunnison. Why spend time on the Seven Points if no big transbasin diversion is really necessary? -Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

Jim Lochhead: The IBCC Seven points offer a framework for discussion, particularly around providing more security for our Colorado River supplies. If we can’t achieve operational security for our Colorado River supplies through the operation of federal Upper Basin reservoirs and management of demands during critically dry periods, then the development of new major transmountain diversions and the dry-up of irrigated agriculture may become necessary. Hopefully an understanding of these issues will allow for more experimentation and piloting of ideas, such as the System Conservation Agreement.

Eric Kuhn: The value of the discussions of the Seven Points on the West Slope has been an increased understanding and sensitivity to the [Colorado River] Compact risk issues. My view is that there has always been (and there may always be) a constituency on the East Slope that believes Colorado’s water problems can be solved by importing water (and thus exporting the problems) from somewhere else. Folks with this view are at the table and have to be a part of the discussion.

Q: Might we consider including those in the regulatory arena in those early, collaborative discussions to expedite the later permitting and review process- Jim Luey, EPA

Jim Lochhead: It is definitely worth exploring whether regulators can be brought into early, collaborative discussions consistent with legal obligations. Ideally, at a minimum, regulators will have a better understanding of the permit applications and environmental compliance and would be able to more quickly develop analysis and work with project proponents and the public.

Eric Kuhn: I agree with Jim. The concept has been discussed for many years, but has proven to be very difficult to implement.

 Q: Is there room for Front Range entities who use West Slope water to adopt a more proactive approach to safeguarding the environmental health of West Slope rivers? Colorado Springs, for example, does not seem to want to talk about the environmental health of the Roaring Fork, even though close to 40 percent of the river’s water is diverted.

Jim Lochhead: I can’t speak for Colorado Springs. At Denver Water, we are acutely aware that the environmental health of the watersheds and rivers that are the sources of our supply is critical to the long-term sustainability of those supplies and our obligation to supply water to our customers. We continually educate our customers about the interconnection between environmental health and their water supply and believe that they support our programs to increase watershed and aquatic health—on both the East and West Slopes.

Eric Kuhn: I agree with Jim’s answer.

Q: Colorado water law and administration tends to encourage people to divert more water than they need to meet their legitimate consumptive uses. Is there a way to change that, perhaps by requiring a transparent public measurement of “current consumptive use” as assessors do with houses and land?

Jim Lochhead: One way to encourage, or even enforce, better and more efficient management is to more forcefully enforce prohibitions against waste by requiring or at a minimum incentivizing greater efficiency. Denver Water’s conservation mantra is “Use Only What You Need,” which should apply across all sectors.

Eric Kuhn: On the West Slope there is too much confusion between diversion “efficiency” and measures that reduce consumptive use. The only real ways to reduce consumptive use are by reducing evapotranspiration by plants and evaporation by the sun. Depending on the location of the diversion, bad “efficiency” is often good for the environment, because the delayed return flows hold up late season stream flows.

Q: Colorado experienced some condiserable rainfall flooding damage in the last couple years on the Front Range especially. Obviously capture and retention of stormwater is an important source of water for domestic usage. The new water plan supports developing new water storage facilities to hold water from winter snow melt to spread water delivery over a longer period than just the natural May, June, July runoff period. I don’t see any reference in the SB 14-115 reports to flood control aspects in these new water storage projects. Flood control has historically been a major reason for creating reservoirs. My question is, why no flood control concepts in the SB 14-115 report and water plan? -Bob Jenkins, Colorado Home Builders

Eric Kuhn: Stormwater is one of those areas where we have become servants of water law (as opposed to it serving us). In over-appropriated basins, like the Platte, the problem is that stormwater management can be viewed as an out of priority diversion. This is an area that requires additional discussions with the State Engineer’s Office. On the flood control question, there is an inherent conflict between operating a reservoir for water storage vs. flood control. For flood control reservoirs, we want to keep them empty because we never know when we’ll get another September 2013 flood. For water storage, we want them full, because we never know when we’ll be entering the next critical drought. Many reservoirs do in-fact have both purposes, but there is a delicate balance and tension between these purposes. The lengthy Chatfield Reservoir reallocation process is a good example of how difficult these issues are to analyze and resolve.

There are 27 transbasin diversions in Colorado that move more than 580,000 acre-feet of water each year from one of Colorado’s four major river basins to another. Read more in CFWE’s Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions. And hear more from these speakers Jim Lochhead and Eric Kuhn on a panel at the 2015 Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention.

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360-Degrees of Wild: Google Street View of Yampa River Launched

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The 2014 Yampa River Awareness Project Group

The launching of any multi-day river trip is a scene of controlled chaos: last-minute gear checks, piles of dry bags, ammo cans and food being loaded onto boats, campsite selection and group safety talks. No matter the river, it’s a ritual I’ve experienced dozens of times. In June 2014, I was amid this chaos as I stood on the banks of the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument in northwestern Colorado with a collection of others who also had the good fortune of being guests on the Friends of the Yampa annual Yampa River Awareness Project float.

The purpose of this trip was more than just recreation and camaraderie. We were together to experience a river with a largely natural hydrograph, or flow pattern, which peaks sharply in May or June and steadily drops throughout the summer. On this day, the river was at its peak, and the water rushed by cold and clear. In three months’ time, the river would be so low you could almost walk across it. Our goal was to understand the power of this wild river, and to discuss the reasons why it is unique and deserves protection.

Yampa and Green rivers confluence - Ken Neubecker, American Rivers

The Google Trekker camera floats to the confluence of the Yampa and Green rivers in northwestern Colorado with CFWE Executive Director Nicole Seltzer and others.

As we were to find out, there was also another purpose for the trip. The big, green alien disco ball lying in the grass next to me was the result of a partnership between Google Maps and American Rivers to make the Yampa the second river to be photographed in “street view.” The first was the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, filmed in 2013. Once filmed, edited and uploaded, anyone would be able to log on and follow the Yampa’s 72-mile course through Dinosaur in a 360-degree panorama.

After signing confidentiality agreements, we were given a crash course in how the “trekker” worked. The camera, made up of several individual lenses that snap photos just seconds apart while on the river, was to be mounted on a raft to record the scenery and fun rapids, as well as strapped to a specially designed backpack and hauled up side canyon hikes by Devin Doston, American Rivers’ national associate director of communications. While our trip would be memorialized forever on Google Maps, the editing process would automatically blur our faces and any identifying information. We were discouraged from displaying any antics that Devin would have to edit out later, though you know it crossed our minds!

Yesterday, just over seven months since Dotson and the rest of our group spent four amazing days floating with the trekker through Dinosaur, American Rivers and Google Maps released Yampa River Street View to the public. I have had fun zooming down the river, looking for glimpses of my blue paddle jacket. But finding myself on Google Maps is minor compared to the impact this project could have for the river and those who want to learn about it. “We are excited and hopeful that this new tool will bring increased awareness of the exceptional Yampa River. And we are positive that these ‘virtual visits’ to the Yampa will lead to more people wanting to help protect this magical place,” said Soren Jespersen, board president of Friends of the Yampa.

Google's new Streetview of the Yampa River

CLICK PHOTO ABOVE FOR VIDEO IN A NEW WINDOW! CFWE executive director Nicole Seltzer was on the raft with the Google Trekker the day the group ran Warm Springs rapid. The run, which captured footage for the new Yampa River Street View (shown above), was itself documented in this great video from a crew member on shore. CFWE’s content program manager, Jayla Poppleton, was on board the paddle raft that ran the rapid just in front of the trekker.

Rafting the Yampa River through Dinosaur National Monument is a lifetime highlight for whitewater enthusiasts. Of the more than 6,000 applicants for a permit in 2014, only 5 percent actually got their feet wet on this stretch of river. Between the Friends of the Yampa trip and a friend’s private trip, I was fortunate to have experienced back-to-back trips in June 2014. River karma dictates that I probably won’t go again for a number of years. I look forward to the day when I can once again explore this special place, but in the meantime, I can reminisce about the journey on Google Maps.

To explore Yampa River Street View, visit http://www.americanrivers.org/yampa

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Water: The Most Important Ingredient in Beer

Early this week, the Your Water Colorado Blog looked at water for agriculture, the state’s largest water user. Now, we’ll continue exploring the ways in which people value and depend on water in Colorado by taking a look at water for industry… specifically an industry dear to the hearts of many Coloradans—brewing. Julie Kallenberger with the Colorado Water Institute attended the Colorado’s Foundation for Water Education’s Water for Brewing Tour in December and guest blogs on the water efficiency and leadership efforts that local breweries are taking on small and large scales. Read her post below, and check out the Water and Beer radio program from Connecting the Drops, posted a few months ago.

By Julie Kallenberger

Clean water is arguably the key ingredient in beer, making up 95% of the total volume, this limited resource is important to the brewing industry—and the industry is important to Colorado. Across the U.S., there are over 2,800 craft and non-craft breweries that contribute more than $100 billion to the overall beer market. In Colorado alone, over 1.4 million barrels of beer were produced by 175 craft breweries in 2013. This results in a $1.6 million economic impact across the state.

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Tour participants see where beer is brewed and gain an understanding of water use in the brewing process at Diebolt.

Recognizing the demand for education on this topic, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education hosted a one-day Water for Brewing tour last month. On the tour, a diverse mix of water professionals, brewery industry representatives, educators, and interested citizens learned about water use and efficiency at three breweries in the Denver area: Strange Craft Beer Company, Diebolt Brewing, and MillerCoors. Participants also gained knowledge about the brewing process and efforts by those in the industry paving the way for continued conversation, efficiency, and sustainability.

Water Efficiency

Water usage can vary from brewer to brewer, with an average water-to-beer ratio of seven barrels to one barrel of beer (1 beer barrel = 31 gallons). However, some breweries use far less water at a rate of 4:1, and some are highly efficient at 3:1 and strive to become even more efficient. The ratio can fluctuate based on many factors, including consumer preferences for more water intensive styles (i.e. hoppy beers).

Motivation for improved efficiency throughout the brewing process is evident. Several opportunities exist for increasing product yield while decreasing water use.

MillerCoors has implemented water conservation and efficiency measures such as decreasing rinse cycle times, rebuilding sand filters, investing in high efficiency brew kettles, recirculating water instead of using freshwater for cooling, recapturing and reusing wastewater for uses not directly related to beer products, installing waterless lubrications throughout their operation, and implementing anaerobic digestion plans to treat wastewater effluent. These practices, combined with cultural and behavioral changes, have allowed them to surpass their reduction targets two years in advance. Moreover, they have set a goal of reducing their water intensity by 2020 from a 2011 baseline by 15 percent.

At Strange Craft Brewing, efficiency efforts have reduced water use.

At Strange Craft Brewing, simple efficiency efforts have reduced water use by 30 percent.

Strange Craft reduced their water use by 30 percent, saving 15-20,000 gallons/month by reusing water used for chilling wort in cleaning equipment, the heat exchanger, and their boil kettle. Diebolt Brewing uses a closed loop glycol steam system to chill their wort and reuses their hot water for cleaning along with a power washer to reduce water use. But, the craft breweries we visited expressed a concern over the lack of meters to tell them exactly how much water they use during each step of the process. Like other breweries, Strange Craft and Diebolt have experienced big growth and changes in their process over a relatively short time. Originally, Strange Craft shared a water meter with next-door businesses, though now they have an individual meter so they can account and manage their water use. Diebolt has one meter that tracks their entire use (approximately 7,000 gallons/month or 1,500 gallons per batch), including the water in the tasting room and restrooms. They anticipate installing additional meters in the future.

Leadership

Opportunities for partnership and sharing ideas among breweries and other stakeholders are plenty. Tim Myers with Strange Craft Beer Company explained how they are taking a leadership role by sharing lessons learned about water savings and efficiency with new breweries in the Denver area and hosting events such as Beer Not Water.

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Ben Moline with Molson Coors explains their corporate responsibility policy and Colorado water portfolio.

Molson Coors’ Every Drop Every Ripple initiative illustrates their commitment to watershed health, use and management, water education, and working together with their suppliers to reduce waste along the entire supply chain. They have formed partnerships with organizations such as Circle of Blue, the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER), The Greenway Foundation, and with stakeholders throughout the communities where they operate to address water concerns and reduce their impact on the environment.

Another example of leadership and collaboration is BreWater, a group of breweries in the greater Fort Collins area who collaborate to learn and share best practices and invest resources in local water projects. The goals of BreWater include educating themselves, as well as other stakeholders about water issues, connecting with community members, and playing an active role in water quality protection and availability.

Some in the brewing industry have provided input into the draft of State Water Plan that was delivered to the governor at the beginning of December. Ben Moline with Molson Coors states their biggest concerns are reliable storage infrastructure and ensuring their water rights are secure over the long term. With growth and drought on the horizon, among other pressures, they understand the importance of playing an active role in the development of the plan to safeguard clean, reliable water supplies.

The future looks bright for the brewing industry in Colorado even  in the face of water quality and quantity uncertainties. While this post focused on the efforts of the breweries we visited on the tour, many others are also working hard to become as water efficient and environmentally sustainable as possible.

Cheers to a fun, educational tour!
Julie

IMG_3371Julie serves as the Education and Outreach Specialist for the Colorado Water Institute where she adopts various roles to help address, educate, and facilitate conversation about high priority water issues throughout Colorado and surrounding states. Julie’s current research focuses on projects related to Colorado’s energy-water nexus and agricultural water use and efficiency in the Colorado River Basin. She also serves as the Research and Outreach Coordinator for the CSU Water Center where she facilitate water research and learning with faculty, staff, and students across campus. In Julie’s free time, she enjoys spending quality time with friends, family and her dog Leo, playing outdoors, and experiencing new styles and flavors of beer – she says, the best of days are when all of these occur at the same time. Julie is also a member of the Fort Collins Beer Bettys, a beer club hosted by The Mayor of Old Town in Fort Collins designed for women to learn from select brewery representatives about brewing processes, products, practices, and to meet others interested in all things beer.

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NOW ON FILM: National Young Farmers Coalition focuses on building resilience, one farm at a time

Crucial to the success of Colorado’s Water Plan—released in draft form in December—will be our ability to use limited water resources more efficiently. Recently the Your Water Colorado Blog looked at municipal water conservation achievements, and now we turn to agriculture—the state’s largest water user—to explore how ag producers are shoring up to face scarcity now and into the future. Kate Greenberg of National Young Farmers Coalition guest blogs on their new film “RESILIENT,” and the water efficiency benefits gained when farms and ranchers focus on soil health.

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By Kate Greenberg

No one needs telling that water in the West is scarce: We breathe it everyday, the dry air so thin it cracks under the hot alpine sun. But as new pressures come down on our water—from population growth to climate variability and extended drought—what we need are more stories that share solutions. What are real people doing to turn scarcity into abundance?

The "RESILIENT" film premiered Oct. 27, 2014, at Powerhouse Science Center in Durango, Colo.

The “RESILIENT” film premiered Oct. 27, 2014, at Powerhouse Science Center in Durango, Colo.

A new short film recently released by the National Young Farmers Coalition sets out to tell such stories. The film, “RESILIENT: Soil, Water and the New Stewards of the American West,” uses animation to illustrate the context of the Colorado River Basin. It then zooms in on farmers and ranchers across western Colorado who are saving water while enhancing productivity by refocusing on soil health and investing in stewardship practices. This requires a slight shift in mindset, from, as farmer Brendon Rockey puts it, focusing solely on yield (quantity) to focusing on the health of the land that grows the food (quality)—which usually brings the quantity along with it.

Among those interviewed in the film: Brendon Rockey, a third-generation potato grower in the San Luis Valley who saves water by rotating cover crops through his crop circles; Cynthia Houseweart, owner of Princess Beef in Hotchkiss who hasn’t tilled her fields in 20 years, keeping intact the microbes, nutrients, water and carbon that thrive in healthy soil; and Randy Meaker, a wheat and corn grower in Montrose who is integrating smart technology with soil health management and efficient irrigation. These farmers and ranchers integrate practices that uphold multiple values on their operations. They do it not only for the health and resilience of their farms today, but for the decades to come.

Farmers inspect dairy pasture at James Ranch in Durango, Colo.

Farmers inspect dairy pasture at James Ranch in Durango, Colo.

The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) was founded in 2010 to ensure the success of the next generation of farmers. Since then, NYFC has grown to a network of more than 50,000 farmers, ranchers and supportive consumers and over 24 farmer-led chapters nationwide. NYFC has successfully advocated for Farm Bill funding for beginning farmers; collaborated with the USDA Farm Service Agency to start a microloan program; trained land trusts nationwide to protect working farmland; and recently launched a new campaign to add farmers to the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program. In addition, in the West we are elevating water stewardship that ensures young farmers will have the resources they need—and the incentives to be good stewards of those resources—well into the future. The film “RESILIENT” is one more means toward that end.

As more and more people move to western cities, the gap between our water supply and demand multiplies. Many cities and states are taking action to bridge that gap: Colorado is writing a state water plan; Las Vegas finished drilling a new intake pipe under Lake Mead; and Arizona farmers are voluntarily forgoing portions of their irrigation rights to help boost Colorado River storage upstream.

Most troubling is that many cities are looking to farmers to fill the gap. While agriculture is the largest water consumer in the West—and in the Colorado River system in particular—it is also an industry comprising some of our best land and water stewards. The more we drain the land of its water, the more people we lose who are most closely connected to it. And the fewer opportunities young western farmers will have to grow food and make a living off the land.

Young farmers visit Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch in Towaoc, Colo.

Young farmers visit Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch in Towaoc, Colo.

Young people across the country are striving to enter careers in farming. But the challenges they face are immense. According to the 2012 USDA Agricultural Census, the average age of the American farmer is now 58. With less than 6 percent of farmers under the age of 35, young people are not getting into agriculture fast enough to fill the gap older farmers will leave when they retire. Nearly 400 million acres of working lands are expected to change hands in the next couple of decades. Who will take on stewardship of that land if we are at risk of losing a generation of farmers? Who will produce our food? And if we continue pumping water off the land, with what water will we grow it?

We need farmers, ranchers and supportive consumers to band together and demand better ways to grow our food and manage our land and water, ways that support young people entering the field. Consumers have a huge role to play, first and foremost through conservation. Conserving water not only supports the environment, it helps keep farmers and ranchers on the land and Colorado mainstays like Palisade peaches rolling through our groceries and markets. Water connects us all, and we must all step up to steward it wisely.

Our farms and farmers, our conscious consumers, our ability to turn scarcity into abundance—and to do so together—this is our resilience.

“RESILIENT” runs at 10 minutes, 14 seconds. It was produced in partnership with the Lexicon of Sustainability and is a tool to spark discussion. The National Young Farmers Coalition encourages anyone to host a screening, either as its own event or paired with an existing event. If interested, please fill out this webform or email kate@youngfarmers.org. To find out more about NYFC or to get involved email kate@youngfarmers.org or visit youngfarmers.org.

Greenberg Farm2-2

Kate Greenberg travels the West organizing networks of young farmers and ranchers as Western Organizer for the National Young Farmers Coalition. She also advocates for supportive policy and promotes land and water stewardship at the local and landscape scales. Her writing can be found in such works as Edible Santa Fe, and she recently helped publish the short film on water conservation titled “RESILIENT: Soil, Water and the New Stewards of the American West.” Kate sits on the board of directors of the Quivira Coalition and lives in Durango, Colorado.

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Happy New Year from CFWE!

The staff and Board of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education were blessed to have a busy, productive and enjoyable 2014.  We wish you and your family the happiest of holidays, and a stellar 2015!  We are thankful for all of our members, supporters and friends.

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Why saving water makes sense, and how one Front Range utility does it award-winningly well

The first draft of Colorado’s Water Plan was delivered to Gov. John Hickenlooper last week, moving the state one step closer to having a comprehensive plan for meeting future water demand while protecting the state’s many water values. As we continue to explore the way people care about water in Colorado here on the blog, we shine the spotlight this week on Front Range efforts to value water by using it wisely. We invited Patrice Lehermeier of Colorado Springs Utilities to share their water conservation successes.  

By Patrice Lehermeier

If you work with water, you get it. Increasing demand and supply challenges in Colorado are placing even more importance and value on water. As stewards of this resource, the greater test—and opportunity—comes as we work to educate and influence individuals and communities on the wise use of this limited and invaluable resource.

Ann Seymour, Colorado Springs Utilities' water conservation manager, receives the award Oct. 9, 2014

Ann Seymour, Colorado Springs Utilities’ water conservation manager, receives the WaterSence Partner of the Year award in October, 2014. The award recognized the utilties’ 88 million gallons of water savings in 2013, achieved through programs like rebates and equipment exchanges. That same year, Colorado Springs Utilities also set a water-saving goal to rebuild supply during the drought and, surpassing that goal of 5.8 billion gallons, saved 7 billion gallons through watering restrictions, conservation, rate surcharges and other measures, that’s the equivalent of 21,480 acre-feet.

In October, Colorado Springs Utilities was recognized with a 2014 WaterSense Partner of the Year award, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiative that honors partners’ commitment to promoting WaterSense and wise water use. The 2014 award marks Colorado Springs Utilities’ third consecutive recognition by WaterSense. (we previously received the 2013 Excellence Award for Strategic Contribution and 2012 Promotional Partner of the Year award.)

Along with eight other exemplary WaterSense partners across the nation, the EPA gave Colorado Springs Utilities the 2014 award based on our efforts over the course of 2013 to help low-income and nonprofit housing providers improve efficiency with WaterSense retrofits, support apartment owners and managers in property upgrades, help builders incorporate WaterSense certification, and educate customers through events, classes and a K-12 education program. That year, we surpassed our annual water savings goal of 84 million gallons, reaching 88 million gallons saved, or the equivalent of 270 acre-feet.

WaterSense, a partnership program sponsored by EPA, seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes, and services. Since the program’s inception in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save 757 billion gallons of water and $14.2 billion in water and energy bills

 

So how do you motivate a community of water users to take pause and think before turning on a faucet or spigot? Before the programs, the incentives, and the eventual savings comes a rigorous amount of work and planning that strikes a balance between people and science, so to speak.

“Conservation isn’t a passive game. It requires on-the-ground, face-to-face community interactions with customers where they live, do business, meet and learn together,” says Frank Kinder, senior water conservation specialist for Colorado Springs Utilities.

Kinder is a walk-the-walk kind of guy. Proof?

A new efficient water-saving valve nozzle replaced old valve nozzles.

A new efficient water-saving valve nozzle replaced old spray nozzles in commercial kitchens.

“In 2010 through 2012, we offered a free pre-rinse spray nozzle exchange program to our commercial kitchen customers, provided they picked up the equipment at our location, but they’re very busy and couldn’t make the time to pick them up,” Kinder explains. “So we filled a backpack, took our rebate summaries, and went directly to the customers, offering them these free nozzles on site.

“It worked wonders. Customers had an immediate chance to see the product, understand its ability to save them money, and gain additional savings information. This method provided confirmed product installs and delivered guaranteed savings, while raising our measured customer service responses.”

Kinder emphasizes the importance of personal, tailored customer outreach, with a leave-no-group-or-person-behind approach. On any given week, he or any one of his coworkers (the group of nine full- and part-time employees serve a community of more than 440,000 people) are presenting at a variety of professional organizations, such as property-owner and manager groups, homebuilders associations, facility management organizations, restaurant associations and more.

“It’s crucial to learn their industry and speak in their terms,” Kinder says. “We also gain industry credibility through local participating businesses that vouch for results, influence their peers, and help replicate success in additional projects and programs.”

An old, less efficient valve nozzle.

An old, less efficient valve nozzle.

In 2013, Kinder and his coworkers spent some of their time and energy assisting low-income and nonprofit housing communities. Building on the utilities already-strong community presence and relationships, the water conservation team partnered with groups such as the Salvation Army, Partners in Housing and the Colorado Springs Housing Authority to retrofit properties. The effort did more than save water. It helped organizations like these save money, extend their limited funding, and serve more people.

While industry can reel in big efficiency savings, other customers have responded enthusiastically to programs designed for them.

In 2013, more than 4,800 people took advantage of free classes and presentations on xeriscape basics, irrigation efficiency and drip irrigation, and also participated in Xeriscape Garden Tours. It’s another example of the benefit of partnerships. Colorado Springs Utilities leans on local landscape experts and its own experienced staff to provide their expertise at no cost to customers, who get the benefit of classroom learning and one-on-one advice.

A pile of shower heads that Colorado Springs Utilities collected, swapping them out for more efficient models.

A pile of shower heads that Colorado Springs Utilities collected, swapping these out for more efficient models.

Home efficiency rebates are another way the utility incentivizes customers, but Kinder adds that all creative ideas are considered. Some that have made their way to customers include free showerhead exchanges and a utility presence at the local running club during WaterSense’s annual Fix a Leak Week.

Currently, an interactive efficiency demonstration home is nearing completion at the utility’s Conservation and Environmental Center, which is open to the public. Customers can learn about water and energy efficiency, low-water landscapes, and renewable energy through hands-on displays. Most times, staff is available to help folks who drop in with specific efficiency questions.

Connecting with customers trickles down to some of the littlest ones and future water ratepayers themselves—K-12 students. In 2014, Colorado Springs Utilities water educators interacted with 58 organizations (mostly public and charter schools, and some scout troops as well) and reached 10,652 participants, which represents about 40 percent of all second- through sixth-graders in Colorado Springs. Students get the chance to learn about the water cycle, drought, ecosystems and more through hands-on experiments and presentations. High school seniors can opt for more intensive work such as water law 101, and most programs are aligned with Colorado Department of Education academic standards.

Colorado Springs Utilities educates customers both in the classroom and at the utilities' offices. This wall of water helps people visualize water savings.

Colorado Springs Utilities educates customers in the field, in the classroom and at the utilities’ offices. This wall of water helps people visualize water savings.

With that focus on people also comes time spent on research, strategy and planning. Scott Winter, senior water conservation specialist for Colorado Springs Utilities, leads the number-crunching and analysis that points the team to the options that will help achieve the greatest results.

“Each program is evaluated annually to determine appropriate goals, budgets, targets, and other related issues. Periodic program analysis is also performed to refine savings estimates, comprehend factors influencing participation, identify new targets and understand penetration rates,” Winter says.

Implementation of and improvements made in automated meter technology has been a boon for Winter and his research. Using customer meter data, he is able to better pinpoint water use patterns and apply them to the planning process. “We’re constantly looking for opportunities to provide the largest long-term savings for the least amount of investment,” says Winter.

The investment part is crucial given the organization’s commitment to ratepayers as a nonprofit municipal utility. “We seek to understand our customers and deliver solutions that make sense in the most effective manner,” says Winter.

Kinder echoed his teammate’s thinking: “We combine genuine enthusiasm, performance and strong business cases into customer-friendly solutions. Trust, motivation and results get people interested and on board, then they become our best advocates, nudge their peers to participate, and together we all win.”

plehermeierPatrice Lehermeier, APR, has served as a senior communications specialist at Colorado Springs Utilities for more than 12 years. Patrice particularly enjoys connecting with customers and helping them better understand how using water wisely positively affects our collective quality of life. Her dream is to one day help build clean water systems in developing countries. Although a transplant from California, Patrice has long called Colorado home and can be frequently found hiking or camping with her husband and dog.

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