Northern Water committed to conservation Email
Written by Frank Kinder   
Monday, March 20, 2023 04:00 AM

Colorado Green Now

 Northern Water committed to conservation measures

by Frank Kinder, Northern Water

Utility expands services in 2023 

The public’s awareness of the West’s water challenges is growing. Many states, cities, water providers, nonprofits, traditional media outlets and industry professionals are communicating the ongoing drought, climate change, and ecosystem health issues we face, which often seem to be accelerating and compounding. Here in Colorado, we continue to experience more extreme weather, variability in water supply, and increasing effects on landscape vitality, cost management and contractor capacity. Collectively, ALCC and the green industry at large have been focusing heavily on these issues and marshalling solutions for many years, with increasing acceptance and adoption. Yet, historic landscape models and management are under threat and scrutiny. Importantly, landscapes remain a vital part of our urban spaces, and their many benefits are appreciated by citizens, visitors and nature. They are a foundational part of our quality of life, and deserve our support, involvement and investment.  

As a state, Colorado has led many efforts to innovate water efficient landscape standards and supports ongoing innovations and adoptions in design, plant pallets, irrigation components, and utility management methods to do more with less, and we have made substantial progress. Many cities are serving more people with less water, with no loss of use, value or service. While challenging, it’s also exciting to be in the landscape and water sectors with many organizations innovating and working together. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) WaterSense program has helped accelerate the development of new technology, and collaborations of Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens, and the Colorado Nursery and Garden Association (GNGA) have made Plant Select a vehicle for plant material that thrives in this climate. For those in our sector, reading about and utilizing new plant cultivars, irrigation systems or business models, is rewarding and provides hope that we have effective tools to fix problems. Yet, considering the worsening status of the Colorado River system, we must do more. 

As a supplier of supplemental raw water to northeastern Colorado, Northern Water recognizes the need to accelerate the use of efficiency techniques through enhanced conservation support in the towns, cities, districts, and their customers that use the water it supplies.  

Education, services and resources 

Beginning in 2018, Northern Water launched a new efficiency program to provide regional efficiency services to the communities it serves. In conjunction, Northern Water also partners with many entities to help advance water efficiency practices for the state and the West at large. These include the many organizations involved in overseeing our urban landscapes including green companies, product providers, academia, nonprofits, property managers, HOA boards, facility managers, and state and local governments. Northern Water’s efficiency services, and those provided by other water districts, are designed to complement, magnify and accelerate the ongoing education, development and investment in landscape sustainability 

Demand for services is brisk 

In 2022, demand for Northern Water’s efficiency services exceeded all prior years, and we are expanding capacity to facilitate more participation in efficiency measures. Northern Water offers the following services to the communities it serves:  

Landscape Consultations - A free service to cities, HOAs, and any commercial entity receiving water from Northern Water, consultations provide objective information to those overseeing commercial landscapes. The goal is to assist those making decisions on capital improvements that can reduce water use and enhance landscape value. Consultations result in a report with findings and recommendations and may be used when evaluating options for changing areas in declining health, of limited use, or those that consume excessive amount of water or maintenance costs. 

Audits - Through a cost-sharing partnership with Resource Central, entities receiving a consultation may be eligible for a “Slow the flow” irrigation audit, which can be another tool for those evaluating investments in landscape changes. Audits are a foundational practice to assess irrigation performance. 

Grants - Northern Water’s Water-Efficient Landscape Grants provide a competitive format for commercial entities to apply for funding to facilitate water efficiency. Grants require a consultation to be performed and must have matching funding provided. Grants are focused on projects that create regional water-conserving, demonstrating efficiently irrigated landscape models that meet multiple objectives. Projects must demonstrate drought tolerance, provide ecosystem services, utilize design, installation, and management appropriate for the region, and use substantially less water than a turf-dominant landscape. 

Conservation Gardens - Northern Water maintains Conservation Gardens at its Berthoud Headquarters. These demonstrations serve to display, inform and inspire visitors to learn about garden designs, plants and protocols that thrive in our climate while using water wisely. In 2023 new demonstrations will come online and more renovations are planned 

Training - Northern Water has a rich history providing training to municipal and landscape industry professionals. Classes are offered from the Irrigation Association, and recent additions include Growing Water Smart Workshops, which help cities integrate water efficiency into land use planning. Importantly, Northern Water also partners with ALCC to host and reduce the cost of the Sustainable Landscape Management (SLM) courses, expanding access to a variety of industry personnel 

Tools - Northern Water has recently released a Landscape Conversion Water Savings Calculator to help owners estimate the water use reductions from enhancements. Further, we are working on publishing landscape designs and plans for medians, rights of ways, traffic circles and new-home front yards that offer beauty, functionality, ecosystem services and sustainability. These products will continue to be rolled out this year. 

Education and Outreach - Northern Water is working with its users to enhance regional awareness of water issues, and seeks to continue education about water status, scarcity and use. As this concept is developed more information will be released on how to participate.  

All services described above are designed to complement the landscape industry and provide additional opportunity for enhancing our current and future built environment. All services are at the discretion of Northern Water and restrictions, or limitations may apply. Learn about these and our other efficiency services results and details at 

Frank Kinder is the Water Efficiency and Sustainability Manager at Northern Water. Northern Water manages the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap Projects. Its headquarters in located in Berthoud, Colorado 

Full article available in the latest issue of Colorado Green Magazine.

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