New Tool to Help Planners Talk About Water Demand

That’s why the Alliance for Water Efficiency, Environmental Law Institute, and River Network recently released a tool to help communities plan for water-neutral growth.
The Net Blue Ordinance Toolkit, developed with input from seven geographically diverse regions of the U.S., is designed to meet different water needs when drafting an ordinance to require developers to offset new water demand.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, among the most well-known of the 13 U.S. communities with existing water-neutrality ordinances, the city requires that developers pay for the new water rights their project will require.
With the focus on retrofits and conservation, city and water utilities will identify the biggest drains on the system and the interventions with the highest potential, she says.
The latter, says Dickinson, “is something we haven’t yet seen before, but we think as a national effort this is something we could test out.” In creating the toolkit, AWE and partners researched the 13 communities that already have ordinances, as well as four communities that once had an ordinance but discontinued it.
In some of these communities, says Dickinson, without an offset ordinance, a building moratorium might have been necessary.
San Luis Obispo, California, adopted an ordinance in 1990 during a severe drought, but discontinued it in 2005 when the city obtained a new water source — and started running out of low-efficiency toilets to replace.
As an example, she says, “I would never want to suggest that Milwaukee do a water neutral development ordinance.
For cities not in a crisis, but still concerned about their water supply, Dickinson points to the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, a utility she sees working hand in hand with a planning department.
Most water utilities, she says, plan for water supply based on projected population growth.

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