In drought-prone Colorado, water is on everyone’s mind, but especially new home community developers, who must assure buyers in young municipalities that they will have water to sustain them for years to come.
Although developers of new neighborhoods in places like Denver and Boulder only pay a tap fee to access water, those working with younger municipalities — “ones that don’t already own decades-old senior water rights” — are generally required to “bring water with them,” reports the Denver Business Journal.
This is a costly proposition that drives up home prices in these areas. For example, the Journal estimates that water costs add $50,000 to the price of each home in parts of the northern metro area and Front Range.
The good news is that some developers are making great strides in easing water consumption.
Developers of Sterling Ranch in Douglas County, for instance, “are setting what should become new standards” for efficient and effect water use,” according to a paper written by Andrea Cole, general manager of the Dominion Water and Sanitation District, which services the area.
While Douglas County’s standard for water usage is 0.75 acre feet per home, Sterling Ranch has shown the ability to decrease that number to .20 acre feet per home (65,200 gallons). It hopes to lessen it even further – to .12 acre feet per home – once the full closed-loop renewable water system is completed.
Sterling Ranch’s method involves careful planning and community learning, galvanizing homeowners toward water-savvy practices. “The community has leveraged smart home technology, smart landscaping, and rainwater harvesting to reduce water usage” notes Walker Hinshaw, Chief Operating Officer of Lumiere Fiber, a consultant and technology partner to Sterling Ranch.
Further details of their approach:
Water-monitoring technology: This technology helps identify possible leaks and offers “dual-water meter systems that differentiate between indoor and outdoor water consumption” and smart irrigation systems that minimize water waste.
Smart landscapes: With help from the Denver Botanic Gardens, Sterling Ranch has identified and installed “drought-resistant pallets of vegetation that will survive and look good throughout the changing seasons,” according to Cole.
Water budgets: Budgets for indoor and outdoor usage based on home size and other factors are “empowering” homeowners “to use the appropriate amount of water.” The development helps homeowners meet those budgets by “giving them real time information” on their usage.
Rainwater collection: Homeowners are allowed to “harvest” a certain amount of rainwater in a pilot project that has been carefully designed so this rain collection won’t affect downstream water rights holders. The rainwater can be used for outdoor irrigation.
Reuse: Sterling Ranch has established systems for returning water back into the system for treatment and reuse.
In all, notes Cole, it amounts to a closed-loop system that can greatly reduce water consumption “one household at a time” and could serve as a role model throughout the state.