2016 Front Range Stakeholder Engagement Workshop
Understanding water challenges, success stories and potential solutions
Date: August 2, 2016 9:00am – 4:00pm
Location: Colorado State University, Lory Student Center – Long’s Peak Room
The purpose of the 2016 Front Range Stakeholder Meeting is to jumpstart the UWIN network building activities that aim to connect people concerned with urban water sustainability. During the meeting, we will introduce the UWIN project, work to identify concerns, needs, and potential urban water sustainability solutions within the Colorado Front Range region, and collectively think about how UWIN research can assist. Input gathered during the meeting will be used to guide national-level project efforts, which include the development of an urban water sustainability framework, the UWIN Blueprint.
Welcome & Introductions
National Engagement Project Overview
Network Activity #1: Facilitated Brainstorming
- Key strengths of the region’s water, wastewater, and stormwater systems
- Most serious threats to those systems
- Major economic, social, or ecological problems caused by those systems
- Key efforts or successes underway to address threats and impacts
- Possible solutions not being widely tried that deserve a closer look
- Key impediments to implementing solutions
Network Activity #2:
- Discussing, Refining, Categorizing, and Assessing Ideas from Activity #1
Introduction to UWIN
- Discussion of appropriate regional boundaries and time frames
Research Presentation: The local UWIN technical team
Network Activity #3: Facilitated Discussion
- What are your greatest needs for assistance and how might UWIN address them?
Network Activity #4: Social/professional Network Expansion Activity
- How the UWIN network might be used to support the region’s needs and goals
- Next steps
- How to stay in touch and share information
Thirty-three individuals, representing state, county, and city government agencies, community based non-profits, university-based research teams, and translators, were in attendance.
The meeting represented the first regional engagement of the Urban Water Innovations Network (UWIN) Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) in the Front Range. After a brief description of the UWIN project, stakeholders shared their views on the current state of the regional water system in the region and voiced their concerns and visions for sustainability. Specifically, perspectives on the strengths of the water system and its governance, threats to the system, problems in achieving sustainability, potential solutions to these problems and barriers to solution implementation, and success stories were elicited. The resulting discussion was insightful and nuanced, providing the research team with a much deeper understanding of the context and the challenges associated with managing the water system. There were presentations by local project team members, Sybill Sharvelle and Chris Goemans, who described approaches to evaluate regional water management scenarios, demonstrating examples of research supported by the UWIN project. The subsequent activity was geared toward generating ideas for aligning UWIN research efforts with needs of regional stakeholders. Participants provided feedback on the types of research and information products that would be most useful in their decision environments. Finally, there was discussion about how to expand the UWIN network and the value of the network as a leading voice for rational water policies. More details on information shared during the session are included in the sections below.
A number of regional water challenges, associated with rapid population growth, reliance on snowpack, water quality/ nutrient contamination, water transfers between agriculture and urban uses, aging infrastructure, wildfire and insect damage, fracking and drilling, and competing demands for resources were described by stakeholders. Climate change impacts are expected to add additional pressures on top of the diverse list of already existing stressors. Participants also described the problems associated with trans-mountain diversions which can impact multiple water users, create economic disparities, and create water quality issues. Sustainability solutions should consider rural areas and these diverse impacts carefully. Additionally, participants described challenges of managing water under the constraints of the Colorado River Compact, which was designed under different hydrological conditions from current. The deficit in the flow of the river is becoming more and more apparent over time. Further, the connection between limited housing availability, leading to homelessness, and impacts on water quality and recreation was discussed as was the need to communicate with residents about water quality issues at the community scale.
When participants were asked to share strengths of the system and success stories, a number of examples were shared. These included the numerous existing and emerging partnerships (such as those between academia and industry), the presence of watershed groups, and the growing population which tends to be young, highly-educated and very aware of water issues. Participants also mentioned that a major strength lies in the region’s location in a headwater state with high quality water and several large water providers, who tend to be very progressive. Further, the close location of professional services and resources including AWWA, WRF and USGS was also described as an asset by SAC members. The region was described as a proving ground for regional collaboration and participants mentioned expanded efforts in outreach and improvements in communication of materials with Spanish speaking populations as successes.
- How will timing and quantity (frequency and intensity) of precipitation change?
- How should we strategize investments of limited resources into both yearly maintenance needs and long-term large-scale shifts in infrastructure and operations?
- Where should we replace grey infrastructure with green infrastructure (especially in places without CSOs)? Aside from focusing on keeping water out of the pipes, how else might we promote GI?
- Our membership covers a broad political spectrum. We need bullet-proof information, that is scientifically proven and fact-based. We need a flexible, tool kit, not a one-size fits all approach.
- Our economic valuations don’t currently capture all benefits. We need a standardized method (template or framework) of valuing ecosystem benefits to present to boards and decision makers.
- There is a great need for information on the health and safety of our water resources in appropriate languages and formats for all of our communities. To build these information campaigns, perhaps UWIN can work with NGOs (like Westwood Unidos) to assist the process.
- We need data on alternative sources like GI or on Greywater, that can guide action and regulation.
- What are the implementation strategies that go with the tools you are building? How can we use the science (like that presented) to tie into regulations like building codes or local scale decisions?
- Can you produce a policy guidance document focused on resiliency/ sustainability? A white paper that includes a checklist of concepts to consider or include in regulation would be helpful.