Water supply planning and city development planning are closely linked. Both our water supply and our physical infrastructure are limited. New water supplies in Westminster’s area are largely gone. Westminster now has the choice to build out our community within our current resources or implement multi-billion dollar capital projects to bring in water from elsewhere.

The challenge and opportunity with this Comprehensive Plan Update is to craft a plan that supports the city’s vision as the next Urban Center of the Colorado Front Range while ensuring we can provide existing and new developments with safe, high quality water and reliable wastewater service that supports the city’s vision of a vibrant, resilient and sustainable community.

  • The Comprehensive Plan and the Water Supply Plan must guide each other to ensure that the ultimate planned build-out of the city can be supported by available water and infrastructure resources. 

  • New developments increase water and infrastructure demand. Whether more residential housing is constructed or more commercial developments are constructed, we know that those developments will add to the existing water and infrastructure demand on our system.

  • Much of the development happening today was accounted for in the 2013 Comprehensive Plan and the associated Water Supply Plan. 

  • Not all types of development use water the same way. Office space generally uses relatively little water, while restaurants use a much higher amount of water.  And high-density residential developments have a significant water footprint. Certain uses have greater outdoor water demand – primarily for landscape irrigation – than other types of land use. 

  • Different types of development also have differing impacts to water and wastewater infrastructure. Just as water supply is a limited resource, so is existing water and wastewater infrastructure. Irrigated parks will draw heavily on water supply, but since most of this water use is outdoors, parks will have limited contributions to wastewater infrastructure. Conversely, restaurants will have a significant impact on both water supply and wastewater infrastructure.
  • An “acre foot” is a common unit of measure of volume for water supplies. It is equal to a 1 acre area that is 1 foot deep. One acre foot contains 325,851 gallons.

  • In order to support the planned development of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan, the city will need approximately 33,000 acre feet of water supply.

  • There are plans in place to supply 33,000 acre feet. It will require significant capital investment to meet this build-out goal.

  • To supply more than 33,000 acre feet, capital investment requirements increase substantially. Going beyond 33,000 acre feet will require billions of dollars of capital investment.

  • Decisions with this Comprehensive Plan update will guide capital spending for our water and wastewater utilities.

We know that our climate is variable from year to year which means our water supply and water demand are also variable from year to year.  

  • Some years there is plenty of snow in the mountains, reservoirs fill easily and there is minimal customer water usage when there is ample rain. In these years, our water system yields lots of water and can comfortably meet water demand.  

  • Other years there is little snow, reservoirs don’t fill, and hot, dry weather causes customers to use significantly more water to irrigate their lawns. In these years, the system could struggle to meet demand, and drought restrictions are needed to ensure our most critical uses can be adequately served. 

  • Climate change modeling efforts of the Front Range consistently show warmer temperatures in the coming years. Precipitation results from these efforts are more variable. It is not clear whether the Front Range will become wetter or drier. 

  • Warmer temperatures will likely increase the variability of precipitation. We could see more extreme rain events along with more challenging times of drought.
Water Supply Plan Work Currently Underway
  • Work is currently underway to understand how year to year climate variability impacts our water supply.  

  • We are utilizing tree ring studies to look all the way into the water history of the late 1500s through today. We call this water history our paleohydrology. 

  • Using a complex, proprietary modeling program, we are then able to translate the paleohydrologic record into a range of probable scenarios. These scenarios show us just how resilient our water supply system is. 

  • While work is still ongoing, we have performed thousands upon thousands of modeling iterations so far, and are learning more with each iteration. 

  • The drought of 2002 was our most recent severe drought. Reservoirs storage was low and virtually all water suppliers in the area had drought restrictions in place. We now know that this was only an average severe drought for our system. Our paleohydrology shows that droughts worse than the 2002 drought are probable. 

  • In the same way we analyzed the paleohydrology, we have also analyzed various climate change projection scenarios. Interestingly, these projections show similarly severe droughts as the paleohydrology. 

  • The completion of this portion of the Water Supply Plan will allow us to understand and convey just how resilient our water supply is and how our water supply can best support a growing population.