Water and Land Use Integration

The Community Development Office (CDO) coordinates the State of Colorado's work to identify and promote local government best practices for integrating land use and water planning. Land use is a local decision; in order to ensure community identity, heritage, economic health, and plans for growth align with available supplies of clean water resources, communities should incorporate water into long range planning processes. Water and land use integration is also a key goal of the Colorado Water Plan

SB 15-008

In 2015, Governor Hickenlooper signed SB 15-008 into law. Among other water efficiency-related measures, the law calls for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to work with DOLA’s Division of Local Government (DLG) to develop and provide training and make recommendations regarding how to better integrate water demand management and conservation planning with land use planning. Since 2015, DOLA and CWCB have collaborated and leveraged the work of partners across the state to encourage both communities and water providers to meet these objectives.

HB 20-1095

In March 2020, Governor Polis signed HB 20-1095: Local Governments Water Elements In Master Plans into law. HB 20-1095 does not require that local governments incorporate a water element into their comprehensive plan. However, it states that if a community chooses to do so, then the local government must:

  • Consult with the entities that supply their water "to ensure coordination on water supply and facility planning."
  • "Identify water supplies and facilities sufficient to meet the needs of the public and private infrastructure reasonably anticipated or identified in the planning process."
  • Include water conservation policies (ideally tied to the Colorado Water Plan).

Policies to implement water conservation and other Water Plan goals may be a condition of development approvals, including subdivisions, planned unit developments, special use permits, and zoning changes. HB 20-1095 also directs DOLA to provide educational resources and technical assistance to local governments interested in including water policies in their comprehensive plans. Contact the Community Development Office's Land Use and Water Planner to explore ways in which your community can integrate water into its comprehensive plan or other planning processes.  

Colorado Water and Land Use Planning Alliance

In December 2017, CWCB and DOLA convened the Water and Land Use Planning Alliance (“the Alliance”). The Alliance is a non-formal multi-stakeholder group of representatives from state agencies, local governments, advocacy organizations, research organizations, and other interested parties who come together with the purpose of coordinating to develop resources, provide technical assistance, and track progress on water and land use integration across Colorado. The Alliance meets quarterly. For more information and to view Alliance meeting summaries, visit the land use page of CWCB’s website.

Tools for Local Governments

The Community Development Office, along with its partners, is developing a resource guide for local governments that aim to incorporate more water conservation strategies into land use planning. See CDO’s page about comprehensive plans for guidance on how to incorporate water into comprehensive plans.

In May 2021, a team of researchers from the University of Colorado's Colorado Center for Sustainable Urbanism and the University of Arizona released a report and accompanying collection of best practices for water and land use planning integration in Colorado. The report includes data for six general topic areas: jurisdictional water planning practices; water supply, quality, and management; ecological and natural resources; applied integration of land use and water planning; opinions regarding integration of land use and water planning; and sustainability.

Tools for Local Governments

2021 Survey of Water Planning in Colorado