Article

Water Master Plan: An Element of County Master Plan

by Craig Dossey, Executive Director, El Paso County Planning and Community Development; Mark Gebhart, El Paso County Planning and Community Development; and Will Koger, Forsgren Associates, Inc.

As one of the fastest growing counties in Colorado, El Paso County is proactively planning for future water supply needs. The county expects to see around 400,000 additional residents by 2060. Both the WMP and The Colorado Water Plan identify a potential water supply gap in the future. The County is focused on evaluating water supply with proposed land use applications to ensure residents of El Paso County have sufficient supplies well into its future.

Within El Paso County there are approximately 70 central water providers (municipality or a special districts organized under Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 32) and over 21,300 permitted groundwater wells. Rural subdivisions in El Paso County generally rely on individual domestic or household wells for their water, while suburban and urban developments are typically served by centralized water and sewer services. Several different types of water supplies are being used by water providers in the County, including: native renewable water, imported renewable water, designated basin groundwater, and Denver Basin groundwater. The majority of water providers in unincorporated areas rely heavily on Denver Basin aquifers for their supply, which are generally nonrenewable sources.

El Paso County is not a water provider but felt it necessary to develop this plan, in addition to its more stringent subdivision water supply regulations. Based upon the data collected from the water providers regarding water supply and demand it was determined that additional supply sources will be needed to meet those demands. As discussed throughout this WMP, many water providers will need to incorporate or increase renewable water sources in their portfolios and some have already initiated the process of bringing renewable water from outside their service areas to meet their growing demands.

In addition to seeking input from the water providers in the County, the County and Forsgren also reached out to the public through multiple methods, including a web-based program, MetroQuest. Through MetroQuest, the public shared their ideas and concerns regarding water supply strategies and other water-related concerns. The website had over 1,000 visits with a total of 378 responses, providing important feedback from the public regarding water issues in the County. A Steering Committee was established to guide the development of the WMP and to ensure it addressed the broad interests of all those within El Paso County.

The WMP was approved December 2018 and the County has already begun to implement the WMP by developing and adopting regulatory mechanisms that support the policies of the plan . Furthermore, the ongoing County Master Plan Update will be informed by the findings and recommendations of the WMP. The WMP should also be used to promote cooperative water planning efforts among water supply entities in the County. Implementing this WMP will help ensure that land use decisions are based on balancing efficient use of limited water supplies with the water needs of current and future residents.


 

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