Water conservation

Fort Collins’ water future hinges on conservation and cost

Whenever the Coloradoan posts about a new subdivision, a common response we see in the comments is, “Where will the water come from?”

In our reports we aim to identify which water district will supply water to new developments, but we know this is a question in search of a much broader answer. While we have some reports to help readers understand how much water is at hand and what it will cost to keep bringing it here, until then we wanted to spark the conversation by asking you :

“Where should the water comes from? Are you ready to xeriscape or downsize your lawn to save water? Ditch that high-flow showerhead or quiet bath? What would motivate you to reduce your water consumption and what hope do you have of these measures to mitigate costly increases in water capacity? Or, if you’re interested in more storage, how much are you willing to pay to maintain your current water usage?”

The question was aimed at individuals, asking them what they were willing to do or what would encourage them to reduce their consumption. But no one has really answered these questions. One response addressed our specific request, although there were many ideas on how water should be managed as new developments emerge.

Peter B. said: “I would be more willing to reduce my own water use if local governments required developers of new homes to pay the true cost of building them, including the cost of adding a new water user. It’s like intentionally adding more mouths to feed when people are already starving. Who benefits?”

For some context: Fort Collins expects treated water demand to reach 38,400 acre-feet per year by 2065, 40% more than current demand for treated and raw water, while the population of the Fort Collins Utilities service area is approaching the projected 195,000. The costs of purchasing agricultural water rights to supply new developments and to expand storage options like the Halligan Reservoir are rising rapidly. But while city water users have reduced their overall usage in recent years, many homeowners still have lawns to maintain and water needs for cooking, drinking and cleaning in the home.

Halligan Reservoir is pictured from the Cherokee State Wildlife Refuge north of Fort Collins, Colorado on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

Is our water too cheap?

“I moved here from a state with abundant water (lots of rain, streams and lakes, high water table) and was amazed to find that my water rates were lower here” , said Craig P.. “We are clearly not using pricing effectively (e.g. tiered rates based on usage). Yes, we need to change planting practices (my HOA required a lawn of water-intensive bluegrass if you weren’t xeriscape) and do more to encourage efficient water use around the home, but a lot of that will come if the price clearly indicates it’s needed.”

L. Victor H said, “Raising the price of water will reduce use, increase conservation and expand supply.”

And Daniel S. echoed that with some caveats: “There is nothing more powerful than a price signal. If we want to control demand, the price has to go up. Of course, that could be done with usage levels or a similar smart system so families of modest means aren’t hit as hard.”

Storage costs increase:Cost of Fort Collins Halligan Reservoir expansion quadruples as review milestones approach

To whom should water use be limited?

Several people have suggested greater retention by agricultural users or those maintaining lawns.

“There should be a limit to how much water they can use,” John M. said, referring to residential lawns. “A usage cap (regardless of how much money you’re willing to spend to keep your garden/golf course green) for abusers.”

Storage should take precedence over conservation, argues Paul A.. “Instead of building new dams and pipelines, the state needs to access some of the water used for inefficient flood irrigation of alfalfa and corn fodder. Farmers could be incentivized to switch to more efficient irrigation systems and we could avoid destroying the Powder for future generations.”

“Agriculture needs to use a smaller percentage of the total,” Paul said, “and we need to stop watering golf courses and landscaping to save the Colorado River infrastructure that supports 40 million people. “.

“Domestic use is about 6% and agricultural use about 87%, points out John R.. “If we save half of our residential use, that’s 3%, enough for agricultural use during 3 to 6 days. Lawns are hardly the problem.”

Who should foot the bill?

Beverly and Randy R. emphasize, “The question of water for growth is not where it will come from but who will pay for it.”

For some, the answer is developers: “We need to make developers pay to buy water rights and increase our share. As the population grows, our share must grow at the same rate. said John R.

New practices

“No new development should go into effect without gray water systems,” said Sharron D.. “It is now legal to use gray water in Colorado, but it is used far too little.”

John W. and Judi T. issued this challenge: “More water on the west side of Continental Divide; we must make what we have work even if it limits growth.”

And right now, some of Fort Collins’ water comes from the Colorado-Big Thompson Water Project, which transports water flowing from the West Slope to northern Colorado. The rest comes from the Poudre River.

Is stopping growth the solution?

Still others argued for abandoning all growth in the face of pressure on growing cities and the environment:

David R. said, “Drought has always been a part of the great American West. Diversion was the solution. When there is no water to divert, what kind of culture insists that continuing to build roofs is the only way to prove that society is ‘healthy’ and ‘wealthy’? Do the people of this area want to kill the Cache la Poudre River, face a day of poor air quality every day, and fight traffic instead of living, or insist that the future is worth preserving?

Sharron R. said, “While growth will never be limited, water use must be limited in other ways:

“So before we even talk about buying water from agriculture, we have to use maximum conservation, whether that means preserving green grass only for greenbelts and backyards and/ or to require gray water for all new developments and to subsidize and/or encourage the use of gray water for existing areas.Additionally, we need to grow in condos and apartments that do not require lawns . »

But whether individuals are ready to start doing it now, and what it will take to build their acceptance, has yet to be said.