Planning to Support Water Supply Diversification

This project explored current and future opportunities to diversify water supplies through better coordination between water utilities and the land use planning and development communities. The project team conducted a literature review on water supply diversification practices that may be available through integrating water resource and land use planning. Additional information, gathered through an online survey, stakeholder interviews, and focus groups, was used to develop case studies and inform the other work products. Project deliverables included a summary report, a coordinated planning guide, a literature review, and literature review sources and case study interview database.

Access the full report and planning guide on the WRF Research Listing.

Ten Steps to Better Collaboration

1. Conduct Research: Identify the alternative water supply types in use or available in your community and establish a baseline of information about them. Understand the challenges of the existing/future water supplies for your community. Also review state/local water and health laws for any pertinent requirements. Use this information and research to inform all next steps taking into account which land use planning activities are best suited to the alternative water supplies of interest.

2. Review Plans: Review your community’s comprehensive plan, capital improvement plan, and water management plan to see if/how alternative water supplies are addressed.

3. Align Projections: Check on the sources for the land use planning population projections and compare against the population projections/sources used by water utilities. Population can be a first step to more in depth discussions about projections of the future, considering additional topics such as climate change and the economy, commercial/industrial/institutional customer trends, etc.

4. Evaluate Regulations: Evaluate your community’s zoning, subdivision, and development regulations, as well as state laws and regulations, to see where there may be unintended barriers to implementing alternative water and/or One Water supply projects.

5. Review Fees and Incentives: Review fee structures and code requirements to see if there are any opportunities to incentivize or promote alternative water supply projects.

6. Integrate Ordinances: Review any separately adopted water sustainability, environmental management, and environmental conservation codes/ ordinances and see if there are ways to integrate them with zoning, subdivision, and/or development regulations.

7. Clarify Review Processes: Examine the steps in the development review process to see where/how water utilities can or should be more engaged. Formalize those opportunities for collaboration via steps or sub-steps in your development review process.

8. Build Teams: Invite your water utility or community planner counterpart to a meeting to get to know them and explore opportunities for enhanced collaboration on alternative water supplies. If such a relationship already exists, expand your efforts to establish a multi-disciplinary team of water and land use planning professionals and set up a mechanism for routine coordination.

9. Inform Decision Makers: Provide training or information to elected and appointed officials (especially those involved in land use approvals) about best practices for protecting existing water resources as well as alternative supply types, methods, options, and/or challenges in your community.

10. Revisit Inspection Procedures: Review your community’s inspection procedures and staffing assignments to ensure that inspections are happening at the right time(s) and that staff has sufficient training.