As many states struggle with drought the city of Westminster, Colorado has set an example with its integration of water data into the planning process. The city's goal has consistently been to achieve sustainable development and sustainable water. In 2001, Stu Feinglas, a senior water-resources analyst, merged the city's land-use plans with water data to ensure that Westminster wouldn't run dry even as its population boomed. This conservation and planning approach has allowed Westminster to become a regional model for managing growth without straining resources.
Conservation measures have helped many cities separate population growth from water use but that approach often puts the burden on businesses and residents to be more efficient. Feinglas used Westminster’s comprehensive plan, which zones parcels for general use like multifamily housing or retail, to make a rough estimate of how much water each type of building would use.
Then the city built GIS software that overlays water resources and infrastructure over the comprehensive zoning plan - making it easy to see, for example, how much water a proposed strip mall might use.
This approach is an improvement from the typical water-per-capita measure that most cities use because it helps planners guide developers to smarter construction. City planners can easily identify the most water efficient zones for multifamily housing and pinpoint locations that require new pipes. Developers can amend their permits to include more low-flow toilets or water recycling based on the improved water data.
In 2018, Westminster staff completed an update to this water supply modeling effort by using a tree ring record to extrapolate over 1,000 possible futures for the city. This equation was used to determine a percent reliability that in each possible future, Westminster can supply its population with adequate water. This information will help the city make changes to its long-term planning and direct short-term operational decisions. Westminster is scheduled to complete its new water supply plan by the end of 2019.