By Sarah Martin

Resiliency through Integrated Planning

Across the West, climate change and rapid population growth have placed pressure on existing water supplies and systems. Traditional strategies to mitigate water stress have included developing new supplies, adding new storage, implementing water conservation programs, and encouraging use of alternative supplies. Communities, more recently, have started setting their sights on a new frontier with great potential: integrating water and land use planning.

Recognizing the importance of water and land use planning integration, the inaugural (2015) Colorado Water Plan included the following as one of eight objectives: “by 2025, 75 percent of Coloradoans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving actions into land-use planning (Colorado Water Conservation Board).” Since the development of this objective, a great deal of work has been done to identify best practices for integrating water and land use planning.

“…there is often no agreement on how to measure progress in integrating water and land use planning or the impact of doing so. Communication and collaboration are needed around what to measure, how to communicate results, and adapt based on what is learned by measuring success.” – John Shepard, Sonoran Institute

Helping communities become more resilient to climate change through integrated planning lays at the core of Brendle Group’s strategic operations. Moving forward, we hope to weave crucial water-land use integration practices and metrics into all Brendle Group projects, including sustainability and comprehensive plans, development regulations, and even climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. But why stop there? Looking ahead, Brendle Group sees an opportunity to push integration beyond the realm of water and land use practices, fostering true resiliency through the incorporation of other intrinsically interdependent systems such as energy production. As a team, Brendle Group is well positioned to lead in this space, given our ability to facilitate discussions and find alignment across diverse disciplines.

Leaving Our Watermark

In Brendle Group’s work at the nexus between water and land use planning, we have found that breaking down silos and working cross-departmentally can produce some of the most satisfying and impactful results. Below are short descriptions of two of our most recent projects related to integrating water and land use planning.

Water Research Foundation Project #4623 – Integrating Land Use and Water Resources: Planning to Support Water Supply Diversification (in coordination with Western Resource Advocates)

Project #4623 focused on the challenge of integrating water and land use planning through the unique lens of alternative water supply. The project resulted in a research report and a companion guide (Coordinated Planning Guide: A How-To Resource for Integrating Alternative Water Supply and Land Use Planning). The guide provides clear recommendations for aligning alternative water supply planning and implementation into three foundational facets of planning: long range plans, codes and regulations, and the development review process. For each of these facets, the guide identifies activity types, integration activities, and community examples that demonstrate real-world applications. For more information, visit the project website.

Metrics for Growing Water Smart: Measuring Success for Water-Land Use Integration

In early 2019, Brendle Group launched a yearlong stakeholder-driven project in collaboration with the Sonoran Institute and water utility staff as well as land use planners from across Colorado. The purpose of this project is to identify metrics that community and State officials can use to track the progress of water-land use integration, as well as the impacts of those integration efforts. The project includes a series of stakeholder workshops and will culminate in a guidebook intended to help water providers and land use planners understand which integration efforts to track and how best to track them. Look for the guidebook in 2020.

Other Great Resources

Best Practices for Implementing Water Conservation and Demand Management Through Land Use Planning Efforts:

Integrating Water Efficiency into Land Use Planning in the Interior West:

State Water Policy and Program Database:


About the Author – As an emerging planner, Sarah brings a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to the Brendle Group team. Grounded in an academic exploration of environmental science and land use planning, Sarah is fueled by a passion to identify connections, especially among the ever-evolving intersections within sustainability. Sarah has worked across a broad range of fields, including climate science, ecosystem resiliency, regional transportation, and water resources.

While pursuing her master’s degree from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in City and Regional Planning, Sarah focused her studies on plan implementation and community engagement as applied to green stormwater management. Sarah has also worked for a Metropolitan Planning Organization, exploring the interaction between land use and transportation on a regional scale. In addition to sharpening her regional perspective and developing a deeper insight into the world of transportation planning, her time with the MPO cultivated an ability to maneuver through diverse political landscapes. Sarah is excited to continue expanding her skills in plan and program implementation, process facilitation, and best practice research.

Works Cited

Colorado Water Conservation Board. (n.d.). State of Colorado. Retrieved from Colorado Water Conservation Board: