Part 3 - Key Context


Land Use Planning Across Colorado

  • Colorado’s local governments have enabling authority to decide how they grow and the sole discretion to determine whether water supplies are adequate to support new development.
  • Comprehensive (master) plans are developed through a public process to guide land use decision-making at the local level.

Water Planning in Colorado

  • The Colorado Water Plan is a critical tool for guiding the state's water management efforts, involving collaboration at all levels. It is a flexible framework for adapting to changing conditions and building resilience.
  • Local water providers vary greatly in size, jurisdiction, capacity, and responsibilities. 
  • The only water plan required of water providers by statute is a water efficiency plan for providers of a certain size. 
  • Most water providers develop a long-range water supply plan.

Interaction between Water Planning and Land Use Planning 

  • While municipal water providers share a governmental structure with their land use administrator, water providers generally do not have land use authority to achieve their water planning/conservation goals.
    • Special districts cannot regulate zoning, codes, or other land use planning efforts to help manage water demand.
    • As of 2015, water providers are required to consider land use best practices in Water Efficiency Plans.
  • Local governments often rely on information from water providers on their willingness and ability to provide water service.
  • Inclusion of a water element in a comprehensive plan is voluntary.
  • The 2023 Colorado Water Plan calls for every comprehensive (master) plan to include water, land use, and alternative water supplies.
  • A majority of local governments address water in comprehensive plans, though many have not fully integrated water supply, demand, and conservation goals.

Water and Land Use Data and Resources

  • Land use data is managed locally, and data format and availability varies by community, which creates challenges when attempting to share or align data between and across communities.
  • Not all relevant information from water supply planning may be readily available to the public and land use authorities due to legal challenges, water rights exploration/negotiations, and/or infrastructure security concerns.
  • Many water providers report water use data through required reporting; however, water demand data at certain scales is legally protected for consumer privacy. 
  • Challenges with growth projections are acknowledged in the Colorado Water Plan. 
    • Planning estimates offer order of magnitude numbers, but cannot be 100% accurate. 
  • Best practice is to link projected water use with specific land use types.


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