Tag Archives: Water conservation

Water Challenges for Young Western Farmers

When you hear the word “farmer,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most people have a preconceived notion of what farming looks like, as well as what is involved in the actual practice of farming. While the average age of an American farmer is 58, and farmers over the age of 65 outnumber farmers under 35 by a ratio of six-to-one, the next generation of farmers is emerging across the country. Their work is yielding joys and challenges previously not experienced, as young farmers face a future impacted by drought, climate change and increasing municipal demands on water supplies.

This recent crop of innovative young farmers is featured in the newly released short film Conservation Generation, presented by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), an organization that “represents, mobilizes, and engages young farmers to ensure their success.” The four young farmers featured in Conservation Generation are working hard to run successful farms in the arid West, with two of them farming on Colorado’s Western Slope; Harrison Topp of Topp Fruit in Paonia, and Tyler Hoyt of Green Table Farms in Mancos.

One of the major struggles for farmers in this part of the country is the ever-increasing scarcity of water. This challenge requires that farmers find innovative solutions to the water shortages that they face. In blog posts they’ve written for the National Young Farmers Coalition to accompany the video, Topp and Hoyt each explain that picking the right land to farm was a crucial component for ensuring that their farms will have access to water.

“Water needs to be at the forefront of how we operate because it will (hopefully) help to keep us in business,” Hoyt says in the film. Both farms are located close to the headwaters of the rivers and streams that Hoyt and Topp draw from, ensuring that the water used for irrigating their crops is less likely to be contaminated by pollutants than it might be if they were further downstream.


Tyler Hoyt         Photo Credit: NYFC

The farmers employ irrigation techniques that allow them to conserve and make the best use of the water that they are able to use. For Topp, this involved improving the method for transferring the water they are allowed to take from the Fire Mountain Canal to the orchard.

“We had a beautiful (but totally inefficient) network of hand-dug ditches that delivered water across the orchard,” says Topp, in one of his blog posts about the original irrigation system on his farm. “Stones, dirt, shovels, tarps and metal fragments were used to get the water to flow where I wanted. It could take hours to get the right amount of water kind of close to where I needed it to go.”

According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as much as 50 percent of water used for irrigation is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods and systems. While Topp notes that their new method of irrigation—use of a gated pipe—is not as efficient as he would like, it works well for the orchard, and is an improvement.


Photo Credit: NYFC

On Green Table Farms, Hoyt employs a host of methods that allow him to make the most of the water that he has access to. “I grow a lot of indigenous crops; those varieties that have been grown out here under dry land conditions for a very long time,” Hoyt explains in the film. “[The use of] drip tape is definitely a huge way that we manage our water so that in those years when we get very little, we can still irrigate.”

The face of farming in the United States is changing. With those changes come new challenges, some of which are the result of  climate change and increasing water scarcity. Young farmers across the country, like those featured in Conservation Generation are optimistic that by working hard, and applying their own creative ingenuity, they can find ways to overcome the issue of water scarcity and keep agriculture alive and growing in the arid West.

Additional information about the Conservation Generation can be found in NYFC’s report, Conservation Generation: How Young Farmers and Ranchers Are Essential to Tackling Water Scarcity in the Arid West; a survey of 379 young farmers in the arid West and recommendations on how their work can best be supported.

If are interested in learning more about managing agriculture and water in Colorado, check out Managing Agriculture and Water Scarcity in Colorado (and Beyond) , a report released by CFWE, in partnership with CoBank, last year.

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Filed under Agriculture, Climate and Drought, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Environment, Water conservation, Water Supply

South Denver Metro Shares Lessons on Path to Sustainable Water Future

By Eric Hecox

This month the South Metro Water Supply Authority, with our technical consultants CH2M, released a comprehensive assessment of the South Denver Metro region’s water future.

The study shows we have come a long way from the days of front-page headlines decrying the region as “running dry.” We can now say with confidence that we are on the path to a secure water future. We know where we’re going, and we know how to get there.

The results are summarized in recent newspaper articles (“The Future Looks Bright for Local Water Sources”) and on our website. In short, we have accomplished three major goals:

  • We have made significant progress in transitioning to a renewable water supply that will continue to become more balanced over time. By 2065, renewable water sources will account for 85 percent of our water supply, up significantly from just 12 years ago.
  • We have determined our future needs and what we need to do to meet them. While there is still work to be done, we are on the right path.
  • We have established an ethic of conservation with a 30 percent reduction of per capita water demand over the last 12 years, and a commitment to do even more.

For regions facing their own water challenges, there are lessons to be drawn from our work in the South Denver Metro region.

First is the importance of partnerships. By working together, the 13 water providers that comprise SMWSA have made a much larger impact than they could working in isolation. Partnerships with other regional water entities – including Aurora Water and Denver Water on the WISE Project and other initiatives – have been instrumental to our success. Similarly important are collaborative working relationships with entities such as the Colorado Water Conservation Board, other basins and their roundtables and many others.

Second, none of this is possible without investment. Our progress is a result of a number of significant projects. In addition to WISE, they include the ACWWA/ECCV Northern Project, the Rueter-Hess Reservoir, the Chatfield Reallocation Project, and many more.

Lastly, conservation and efficiency play a critical role in our success. By aggressively pursuing conservation strategies and becoming a leader in the state in water reuse, we have put the South Denver Metro region on a path to a sustainable water future.

If you would like to learn more about our efforts to date and plans moving forward, feel free to get in touch by sending me an email at erichecox@southmetrowater.org. M
ore information is available on our website: SouthMetroWater.org.

You can also read more about the WISE Project and other regional collaborative effHW SUMMER coverorts in “Linking Up: The Case for Regionalization” from the summer issue of Headwaters magazine, published by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education:  And explore CFWE’s new Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Water Conservation for a comprehensive overview of the most current and effective strategies to improve water efficiency at an individual and community scale.


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Eric Hecox is executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a regional water authority comprised of 13 water provider members that collectively serve about 80 percent of the population of Douglas County and 10 percent of Arapahoe County. SMWSA was established in 2004 to develop and execute a plan to provide a secure and sustainable water future for the region. Eric is also president of the board of directors for the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. 

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Filed under Headwaters Magazine, Uncategorized, Water conservation, Water Supply

Rainbarrels and Rainwater Harvesting for Water Conservation and Stormwater Management


Credit: Donald Albury [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Last month, Governor Hickenlooper signed HB 16-1005 into law, making rainwater harvesting widely legal in Colorado. Thanks to the legislation, precipitation can now be collected from residential rooftops, provided a maximum of two barrels with a combined storage of 110 gallons or less are used; precipitation is collected from a single-family residence or building that houses no more than four families; collected water is used on the residential property where it is collected; and water is used for outdoor purposes. Rainwater harvesting in Colorado has been subject to a lot of hype and the new legislation heralds much excitement, but how much water will it really conserve?


“I think it is somewhat much ado about little,” said Peter Mayer during our Connecting the Drops radio call-in show on water conservation. Mayer co-authored a new study Residential End Uses of Water, Volume 2, that’s lush with data on residential water use and conservation. Rainbarrels could save a user 1,000 to 1,500 gallons of water per year if used regularly, Mayer said. Although it sounds like a lot, 1,000 gallons likely costs only about $5 on your water bill, depending on your provider. Read about Denver Water’s recent changes to its rate structure here.


Peter Mayer in the KGNU studio, discussing water conservation with host Maeve Conran.

But that’s not to say that rainwater harvesting is a bad investment or an unimportant move for the state. “The symbolic value is very good,” Mayer said. “Anything that gets people thinking about how to use water efficiently and how not to waste it is very much a positive thing.” Rainwater harvesting may increase overall water awareness for residential users, leading to an increased conservation ethic.

At the same time, these systems can have a stormwater impact. “I think that the potential benefits from stormwater management may be at least as significant as the water conservation potential,” Mayer said.

People tend to connect downspouts to their gutter systems and direct those straight into their driveways so water washes off roofs, down driveways and streets and into city gutters, collecting pollutants along the way, said April Long, stormwater manager for the City of Aspen. Rainwater harvesting allows that water to be captured and gradually discharged onto lawns and gardens which naturally filter out pollutants, improving overall water quality.

screen_shot_2016-06-16_at_9-24-13_amA rainwater harvesting system under special permit was constructed and operated at the Denver Green School as a research project that began in 2012. From CFWE’s new Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Water Conservation:

The unique system was constructed with stormwater management in mind. With a real-time connection to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather forecast, any stored water drains prior to a storm so that the system’s full capacity is available for rainwater capture. Data collected at the Denver Green School site between 2012 and 2014 show a reduction in the volume of stormwater runoff of 88 percent on average per event. By reducing the volume of stormwater exiting the site, the system reduces pollutant loading in nearby streams as well as erosion in the stream associated with increased stormwater runoff.

The Denver Green School’s project also showed that rainwater harvesting can provide a real reduction in irrigation demand for sites with a large rooftop-to-irrigated-landscape-area ratio. At the school, 81 percent of irrigation water used was rainwater.

Read more about this project and effective conservation measures, regulations, incentives and more in the new Citizen’s Guide.


Filed under Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Water conservation, Water Education and Resources, Water Legislation, Water Quality, Water Supply

Next Gen Data-Driven Water Demand Management for Rocky Mountain Utilities: A WaterWise Lunch ‘N Learn

By Frank Kinder

2015 CSU WaterSense Showerhead exchange at Colorado College 1

A 2015 Colorado Springs Utilities WaterSense showerhead exchange at Colorado College helps customers reduce water use.

Demand Side Management (DSM) has become an important component of water supply for water providers. DSM practices are initiatives that help water users manage their consumption. They include incentives, rebates, retrofits, outreach, education, audits and other tools.

These efforts help water utilities better understand, predict and plan for overall water demand and supply. As DSM practices progress, technology capabilities are being developed to help water suppliers understand their data, implement efficiency projects, and target customers. DSM tools offer both long-term water supply contributions and enhanced customer engagement.

Through engagement, DSM allows water providers to offer customers information about water use and tools to manage it. Education builds water fluency by sharing more information about water scarcity, sources, common uses, and averages. This equips customers with direct opportunities for commodity management so they can use that data to make informed decisions, change behavior or replace fixtures. Utilities benefit by having customers that are more informed about their water use while learning about immediate ways to change their consumption, while customers benefit by understanding their role in utility management and having ownership over their usage. These aspects are useful to both parties for ongoing communication about issues of water.

As software capabilities have improved, many utilities use data analytics to dissect demand patterns and pursue participation in efficiency. Customer segmentation, social norming, and personalized reports are common elements of these programs. This complex work is either done in-house or through partnership with software vendors. Many solutions exist to assist utilities with this effort.

To see examples of how this concept is implemented in some Front Range communities, San Francisco-based WaterSmart Software  will be giving a free Lunch’ n Learn on Friday June 10th on the “Next Generation of Data Driven Demand Management for Rocky Mountain Utilities.”  Colorado WaterWise is hosting this event and lunch is provided.  Go here to register: http://coloradowaterwise.org/event-2251626

Interested in water conservation? Stay posted, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Water Conservation will be available in just a couple short weeks—preorder your copy today.


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Filed under Events, Water conservation, Water Education and Resources, Water Supply

Go Time for Colorado’s Water Plan: meeting the plan’s conservation goals


By Nelson Harvey, excerpts pulled from an originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of Headwaters magazine

go time bugWhen Gov. John Hickenlooper triumphantly hoisted the final water plan at a mid-November ceremony in Denver, the hundreds of Coloradans who contributed to its formation paused to take a congratulatory breath. Yet even then, questions were swirling about how the voluntary plan would work—how the state’s utilities, businesses, advocacy groups and individual water users would internalize its recommendations and take responsibility for its goals—and whether they would, by the plan’s own measurement of success, be able to close the municipal water supply and demand gap without compromising other values.

Here, we turn those questions on one of the plan’s nine defined measureable outcomes: water conservation.

iStock_000079530373_SmallWater conservation: Stretch now to avoid strain later

The water plan sets an ambitious “stretch” goal of conserving 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water annually by 2050. That level of conservation would go a long way toward closing Colorado’s projected gap between water supply and demand—about 560,000 acre-feet per year in 2050 under a business-as-usual paradigm—and sharply reduce the need for new water supplies procured through controversial measures like new transbasin diversions or the dryup of irrigated agriculture.

Drew Beckwith, water policy manager for Western Resource Advocates, says achieving the goal will mean reducing per-capita water demand by about 1 percent per year between 2010 and 2050, so that each Coloradan’s demand 35 years from now will be 35 percent lower than it is today. “We’ve been achieving that rate of conservation over the last 15 years in Colorado, and water providers have told the state that they plan to continue doing it in the future, so there is lots of evidence that it’s possible,” Beckwith says.

Getting there will require long-term collaboration between state agencies and water utilities and their customers, whether those customers are motivated by their environmental ethos or a hefty water bill. To reach the goal, utilities will have to implement measures outlined in the “high conservation” scenario laid out in the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative report by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the agency that oversaw the water plan’s creation.

That scenario, which CWCB water conservation specialist Kevin Reidy calls “difficult but not impossible” to achieve, involves things like at least half of all utilities introducing individual water budgets for their customers, where water use targets are set and financial penalties imposed for above-average use. Other possibilities: Between 70 and 100 percent of municipalities might adopt conservation-oriented plumbing and building codes, and at least half of the water-hungry turf in the state might be replaced with low water-use plantings.

Much of the responsibility will rest on the shoulders of water providers and customers, but the water plan pledges that the state will also take steps to encourage conservation. One is to make comprehensive water resource planning by utilities a pre-condition of any state support of—or funding for—new water projects, thus requiring utilities to show they’re on track with conservation before receiving state funds. (Although utilities delivering at least 2,000 acre-feet of water per year are already required to submit conservation plans to the CWCB, the new mandate would require they integrate those plans with other aspects of their operations.)

“We believe that we can use incentives to push people in the right direction,” says Jacob Bornstein, CWCB program manager for the basin roundtables and Interbasin Compact Committee.

The water plan also recommends exploring a new state law that would require all outdoor irrigation equipment sold in Colorado to meet federal WaterSense efficiency standards.

Compared to the challenge of achieving the conservation goal, keeping tabs on progress will be relatively easy, thanks to a 2010 state law—House Bill 1051—requiring water providers (those that sell 2,000 acre-feet of water annually) to report their annual water use and conservation data to the CWCB to aid in water supply planning.

“Going forward we’ll have data that we can use to monitor our progress,” says Beckwith. “Also, if individual utilities are doing well with conservation we would expect them to publicize that. Maybe through a combination of record keeping and self-promotion, we will get there.”



Filed under Colorado's Water Plan, Headwaters Magazine, Water Supply

Upcoming Conservation Summit

By Frank Kinder, co-chair of the Colorado WaterWise  board of directors, and senior conservation specialist with Colorado Springs Utilities

Coloradoans are always thirsting for more water knowledge.  In the arid west, conservation is an important part of our water picture. Colorado WaterWise presents an update to conservation in the square state this month with its annual Conservation Summit

In its 8th year, the Conservation Summit is where attendees gather to share the latest water conservation tools, news, and come together to network—you’re invited to attend this year on October 29 in Denver.

Participants will learn about the Colorado Outdoor Water Regulation Guide, a smart phone app that connects users to city ordinances; learn the latest in the AWWA M36 Water Loss Audit distribution efforts and workshops; hear about updates to Colorado Water, Live Like You Love It; and discover other upcoming tools and projects facilitating conservation in Colorado.

Dr. Wallace J Nichols, author of Blue Mind, will be the keynote speaker at the WaterWise Conservation Summit. He is pictured here with CFWE's Kristin Maharg at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, author of Blue Mind, will be the keynote speaker at the WaterWise Conservation Summit. He is pictured here with CFWE’s Kristin Maharg at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference

Highlights will include a talk from Tom Browning of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, who will discuss water conservation in Colorado’s Water Plan, and the necessity of water conservation for Colorado’s water future.  You’ll also have the hands-on experience of water education activities in our K-12 schools, where science, fun, and learning convene. Becky Fedak of Brendle Group will outline progress in the industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors with her Net Zero Water Toolkit, which is helping cities plan today for the future. Jane Clary will take participants outside with progress on quantifications of landscape water use. And our keynote, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, will share and inspire with his groundbreaking work on The Blue Mind, exploring how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do.

great divideThe day completes with a special showing of The Great Divide film about water in Colorado, with producers providing an introduction.  There will even be popcorn and refreshments with the show. Go enjoy the day, immersing yourself in the world of water with people who love it as much as you do.  Click here to register…see you there!


Filed under Events, Water Education and Resources, Water Supply

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.


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!

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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Filed under Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Colorado's Water Plan, Events, Water Quality, Water Supply