Last week I met with a CSU sponsored organization called Water Literate Leaders. They asked me to discuss water and conservation issues from a developer’s perspective, along with some other great presenters. It is a wonderful group committed to educating community leaders about the water challenges in Northern Colorado. I want to share some of the discussion with all of you.
There are practical limits to water conservation in residential development. It is not practical, for example, to dictate substantial life change for people in order to live in Montava. We believe lasting change should become a natural and attractive part of our lives. It draws us to come alongside of the conservation idea, and rewards us for doing so. Most residents in Colorado already strive to conserve our natural resources. How can we be a great partner in that effort?
I am a big believer in the Pareto Principal as it is applicable to so many areas of life; 80% of the value we seek will come from 20% of our effort, energy, focus. That is certainly true in the area of water conservation. One slide from last weeks presentation highlights the “80% solutions" that we are working on within the context of Montava. The main concepts are:
1. Design of the home and community
2. Automation and control
3. Knowledge is power
The first opportunity in the 80% solution is home and community design. Today homes are being built with substantially greater water efficiency than ever before. So much efficiency in fact it can cause problems with the waste water utilities because there isn’t enough water in the pipes. Adopting the WaterSense principles in home design, not just the fixtures, means we will waste less water and not even know it. Think about how long you wait for the hot water to hit the shower head, or at your kitchen sink. That is often a design flaw that can be fixed with forethought. Design the homes with WaterSense standards and you make a real difference without having to change behavior.
Another design feature is creating a community that replaces large yards with common areas, open space and parks that can be managed to a much higher level of efficiency. That’s one very positive, if unintended, consequence of the New Urbanism movement. Designing the community for efficiency provides a wide variety of benefits.
Also designing a robust non-potable irrigation system is another significant conservation effort that has a wide range of community benefits.
Automation and Control:
Better automation and control by design can enable the community to use substantially less irrigation water. We sadly waste so much water in this area.
In our landscapes the two big water wasters are:
1. System leaks that never get repaired
2. The need for frequent water scheduling changes to more closely match variable weather patterns.
Fortunately, there is excellent, inexpensive technology that can update irrigation system runtimes and notify us of costly system leaks.
Knowledge is Power:
In my opinion, providing everyone with real time curated information is a classic 80% solution. Almost every new home is being built with water meters that have RF technology allowing them to be connected to a monitoring system that can give the resident valuable real-time information. So much waste comes from our lack of real-time feedback. It’s the “out of sight out of mind” syndrome. With curated real-time data, the already conservation-minded Fort Collins resident can make better decisions.
If we received an alert on our phone pointing to an ongoing leak in our water system, we would likely get it fixed. Otherwise that leak could go undetected for years. This is just one simple example.
If we had a community app that gave us handy tips every month for creative ways to conserve water or energy, we could inspire good habits. Technology and curated information can be a powerful tool to influence and enable constructive behavior.
Water conservation is a shared passion in Colorado. Tremendous strides have already been made over the last two decades. As Fort Collins grows we will continue to be a leader in conservation oriented development, by design.