Foxes scampered freely in the autumn wind, weaving in and out of the bush and pine surrounding the quaint mountain town of Keystone, Colorado, as our team prepared to start the second round of our 2.5-day Growing Water Smart workshop. Representatives from the City of Brighton, City of Littleton, Town of Wellington, Elbert County, and Jefferson County gathered to craft action plans to better manage their land and water resources to ensure there is enough for both people and nature. These communities are taking steps to become more resilient in the face of population growth, economic fluctuations, climate change and the uncertainties that impact our resource supplies.

Time and Space

Improving community resilience to the uncertainties of the future takes collaboration and time, an investment communities struggle to afford given over worked staff and under resourced departments. That’s where an event like the Growing Water Smart workshop can help. With funding from the state of Colorado and non-profit organizations, communities can organize teams to spend time with peers and professional facilitators, working together in a space where discussions evolve, differences are overcome, and consensus is derived so they can act.

Community Readiness

Communities demonstrate they are ready for Growing Water Smart by identifying initiatives that will benefit from participation in the program.  Some communities are updating their comprehensive plans or have just hired their first water resources professionals, while others are auditing their codes to eliminate barriers to their goals and devising how to best collect, manage, process and communicate data needed for effective, informed decision making at both a local and regional scale.

Bringing Diverse Stakeholders Together

Communities further demonstrate they are ready for Growing Water Smart by organizing an interdisciplinary team of empowered professionals and stakeholders. Typically, as in this latest round, communities convene a team of elected officials, department directors, water providers, land use planners and other community leaders essential to planning how water and land are managed in their community. Peer exchange amongst teammates and learning from other communities is a well-touted benefit of the program. Getting a community’s top leaders to attend can be especially difficult, but their involvement may best ensure production of robust, well-informed and well-supported action plans.

Action Planning

The teams’ efforts throughout the workshop culminate in thorough action planning packed with strategies and goals to begin implementing once back home. Teams considered a wide range of activities from broad actions to smaller, more detailed action steps. For example, some of these action plan’s included steps around exploring different avenues by which to increase revenues for stream restoration, creating synergies between departments and existing water and land use plans, and crafting messaging to effectively convey water and land management ideas to the public and better engage them in water issues and solutions. After creating their action plans, communities qualify for follow up technical assistance funding to help ensure they are implemented.

Future Workshops

The next Growing Water Smart workshop from April 24 – 26, 2019 will focus on the Colorado Headwaters region, particularly those communities that are part of the Water Quality/Quantity (QQ) Committee of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. Focusing on a specific region such as this can build relationships that catalyze internal, local and regional collaboration.

If you are interested in the workshop and your community is part of the QQ Committee, check out the application here for more info.

If your community is not a part of the QQ Committee, then sign up for our listserv so you get notice of our next RFP. We’ll be hosting the Growing Water Smart Workshop again in September, 2019. And in the meantime, you can check what your community knows, what it’s doing and actions to consider by completing our Community Self-Assessment. You can also review the Growing Water Smart Workbook, which provides a framework and case studies of how your community can start growing water smart.