Denver One Water Plan
As the urban hub of Colorado’s Front Range, Denver has historically overseen all aspects of its water cycle—drinking water, wastewater, water reuse, stormwater, flood management, water conservation—through separate entities, each with its own service area, policies, programs, and goals. However, redevelopment and growth, coupled with increasingly variable and extreme weather events posed by climate change, have created new challenges in water management that demand collaborative efforts.
Seeing an opportunity in those challenges, a coalition of public agencies decided to coordinate Denver’s water management policies through the holistic One Water approach or, more specifically, the paradigm-shifting Denver One Water Plan.
One Water is an integrated planning and implementation concept that recognizes water as a finite resource and, thus, attempts to make appropriate use of all available types of drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, watersheds, and beyond. Its overall goal is to create a shared framework for developing long-term water supplies that reliably meet public and environmental needs while reducing costs, improving resilience, enhancing community livability, and, perhaps most crucially, encouraging standardized collaboration between multiple water agencies to achieve common objectives.
Carollo led the development and implementation of the Denver One Water Plan, a document created by and for the City and County of Denver, the Mile High Flood District, the Water Connection, Denver Water, Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Under this plan, these organizations will directly coordinate the management of water supply and quality, wastewater, storm and flood protection, watersheds, and waterways under an institutional collaboration framework.
The plan established a One Water Advisory Group—a stakeholder committee comprised of 33 different governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, registered neighborhood organizations, business improvement districts, developers, and academic and research institutions—who helped define the plan’s vision, overarching goals, and specific strategies to achieve them. Several projects already underway in Denver that exemplify One Water’s principles and approaches were also identified.
Following the Denver One Water Plan’s final publication in August 2021, regional collaboration initiated in the planning process has vastly improved lines of communication amongst utility partners who’ve reevaluated their organizational priorities around One Water and begun to mitigate gaps in the process. As the plan moves further into its implementation phase, Denver will continue identifying better ways to coordinate water management and land-use practices around its community’s symbiotic relationship with water.