Fact Sheet: Colorado's Conservation Policies

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JUNE 2021


Colorado’s Conservation Policies Natural constraints bind Colorado’s water supplies. A limited and varying amount of water is available each year— that quantity could become even more stretched in the future. According to the 2019 Technical Update to the Colorado Water Plan, municipal and industrial water uses account for about 10% of overall statewide water demand. While many communities across the state have been successful

in driving down individual per-capita water use, population growth is projected to drive an increase in overall statewide municipal water demand by 35% to 77% by 2050. To continue stretching scarce supplies, policy makers, water providers and residents are adjusting the way they use and consume water through advanced conservation goals, practices, policies and regulations.

Do Colorado’s conservation policies go far enough?

Recent Colorado conservation policies HB20-1095 requires local government master plans that contain a water supply element to include water conservation policies. HB19-1050 says that restrictive covenants can’t prohibit property owners from using xeriscape or drought-tolerant plants in common element properties for which unit owners are responsible for landscaping. Previously this applied just to common interest communities, such as homeowners’ associations. HB19-1231 updates water and energy efficiency standards for certain products, including low-efficiency plumbing fixtures. The standards apply to new products sold in Colorado. HB16-1005 made rainwater harvesting widely legal in Colorado, allowing the

collection of precipitation off of residential rooftops through two barrels with a combined capacity of 100 gallons or less. 2015 Colorado Water Plan set the goal of achieving 400,000 acre-feet of new water conservation savings statewide each year. HB13-1044 authorized the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop regulations to ensure the safe use of graywater and allowed local governments to use those regulations to permit graywater use in their regions. HB10-1051 required water providers who sell at least 2,000 acre-feet of water annually to report water use and conservation data to be used for statewide water planning. That data is available through the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Water Efficiency Data Portal.

In the 2018 report State Level Water Efficiency and Conservation Laws in the Colorado River Basin from the Alliance for Water Efficiency, Colorado earned a “B” grade for its efficiency and conservation laws. The report also ranked Colorado 11th of all 50 states and 4th of the seven Colorado River Basin states, meaning that its conservation and efficiency laws are more stringent than in some parts of the country, but not the very best. While Colorado’s policies were highly rated for financial assistance, water conservation plan requirements, plumbing fixture and appliance standards, and building codes, the report found that Colorado could have stronger water supplier drought plan requirements, water conservation connected to water supplier permits, technical assistance, and metering and billing. Alliance for Water Efficency Report Card STATE




















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How much water do Colorado households use?


According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the average use of publicly supplied households, or “domestic” water users, in Colorado was about 128 gallons per capita per day (gpcd) in 2015. That’s more than the national average of about 83 gpcd, although this comparison doesn’t account for vast differences in precipitation and temperature between U.S. geographies, which drive outdoor water demands.

Conservation Saving water or reducing the amount of water consumed. Water conservation can be achieved through technical or mechanical measures and/ or social or behavioral means.

Colorado also collects its own water use and conservation data through the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s (CWCB) Water Efficiency Data Portal and water efficiency plans. CWCB uses this data to estimate past and future water demands. According to the 2019 Technical Update to the Colorado Water Plan, statewide per capita water use is about 164 gpcd (down by nearly 5% from the 172 gpcd reported in the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative). The Technical Update projects statewide per capita demands are likely to continue decreasing as a result of increasing populations, more water efficiency, and climate change (which will likely drive up outdoor water demand). By 2050, statewide demand could reach as low as 143 gpcd, or 13% lower than in 2019, with even more savings possible on top of that.

Domestic per capita water use According to 2015 U.S. Geological Survey data, Colorado’s publicly supplied domestic water users use more water per capita than the national or West-wide average. Western states represented include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.







Sources: USGS Estimated use of water in the United States in 2015 https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/cir1441; USGS Public Supply and Domestic Water Use in the United States, 2015 https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2017/1131/ofr20171131.pdf

Graywater reuse lowers water demand

Graywater is water captured after use in sinks, showers and washing appliances. Increasingly, Coloradans are putting it to use a second time, often for irrigation and toilet flushing, to conserve water supplies and ease demand on treated water. A new Lennar development in Denver’s Central Park neighborhood employs Greyter graywater systems to capture shower and bathwater and reuse it for flushing toilets, which Denver Water estimates will reduce a home’s indoor water consumption by as much as 25%. In Colorado, graywater may be captured and reused only in regions where local governments have adopted an ordinance approving its use. Still, state-level health and safety graywater regulations have been in place since 2015, with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Regulation 86 and the Colorado Plumbing Board’s adoption of portions of International Plumbing Code focused on graywater piping.

Demand Management Implementing conservation or efficiency measures to reduce water deliveries (demands) and/or improve efficiencies within a water distribution system. Demand management may be used interchangeably with water efficiency. Demand management may also refer to the potential Colorado River systemwide conservation program that Colorado and the other upper basin states may develop to reduce upstream water use in order to store water in Lake Powell to help with Colorado River Compact compliance. Efficiency Includes the practices, techniques and technologies that extend water supplies either directly through water savings or through substituting alternative supplies such as reuse. Efficiency often focuses on reducing water waste or using the minimum amount of water needed to accomplish a task. In some contexts, water efficiency is inclusive of water conservation. Per Capita Water Use A metric representing an individual person’s share of an area or region’s daily water needs. It’s typically referred to as gallons per capita per day (gpcd). Per capita water use is calculated by dividing the total volume of daily public water demand and dividing it by the number of people served.



State-Level Water Efficiency and Conservation Laws in the Colorado River Basin https://tinyurl.com/yduravxx Technical Update to the Colorado Water Plan https://tinyurl.com/r5mphzb4 Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Water Efficiency Data Portal https://tinyurl.com/3cudfxpn Colorado’s Regulation 86: Graywater https://tinyurl.com/62nkdacw

Produced by Water Education Colorado, an independent and nonpartisan nonprofit working to ensure Coloradans are informed on water issues, in collaboration with its news initiative, Fresh Water News.

1600 Downing St., Suite 200 Denver, CO 80218 (303) 377-4433 Copyright 2021 by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education DBA Water Education Colorado. www.watereducationcolorado.org