Westminster hosting recap on water use and priorities

City Council study session set for Nov. 29.

Luke Zarzecki
lzarzecki@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/24/21

Westminster City Council will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 29, discussing all things water.  “We are bringing all of our questions to the table that night,” said Mayor Nancy …

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Westminster hosting recap on water use and priorities

City Council study session set for Nov. 29.

Posted

Westminster City Council will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 29, discussing all things water. 

“We are bringing all of our questions to the table that night,” said Mayor Nancy McNally. 

The meeting was called after Interim City Manager Jody Andrews conducted interviews with each member of the council, discussing which priorities are on their minds. With many of the council members, and citizens of Westminster, concerned about water, he arranged the special session Nov. 29. 

At the council meeting Nov. 22, Andrews said that the top five priorities for citizens and councilors are water, growth, engagement and outreach, public safety and neighborhood support and hiring a new city manager. 

“Recognizing that water in Westminster is perhaps the most significant issue facing you as a city council and the community we serve, we have scheduled a study session for next Monday for Nov. 29,” Andrews said. 

Water has been a hot topic for Westminster. Members of the former city council voted against lowering water rates last summer, igniting a recall election from residents. Also, council will be voting on Uplands, a new development planned for the city, Dec. 13. During a planning commission meeting about Uplands, much of the public testimony stressed concerns over the city's water reserves. 

McNally hopes to understand the issue of water before the meeting concludes. For her, she believes that the process for approving developments has been backward: Before she can say yes or no to any new development, she must understand how much water the vity has to offer. 

“We have limited water. We don't have a bucket or a faucet to turn on and say we just fill all of our reservoirs or whatnot,” she said. “The main goal of the meeting is to find out how much more (water) do we have and how many more people can we accommodate, if at all?” 

Andy Le, a spokesperson for the city of Westminster, said that the city generally uses about 20,000 acre-feet of water a year. 

On reserve, he noted that it fluctuates every year based on Standley Lake. When the lake is full, which is in the spring when the lake fills, the city has about 22,200 acre-feet of water. 

“We are about at our lowest amount of water stored in Standley Lake, and we have around 18,800 acre-feet in storage right now,” Le said. 

A factor to the water supply that many residents are concerned over is climate change. Le noted that drought conditions affect the supply due to demand rising, the supply decreasing with higher temperatures and lower precipitation. 

However, the city does run models to predict future climate events. Temperatures are expected to increase and weather patterns will become more extreme, meaning dry times will be dryer and wet times will be wetter. 

To calculate the future need in reference to the changing climate, the city takes many factors into consideration. 

“The city evaluated various scenarios that included different levels of development density, different levels of conservation, future and projected water use, different supply availability, drought potential, and climate change,” Le said. 

New developments, he said, are required to follow Westminster's comprehensive plan when evaluating whether there is enough water for them. 

“If a developer wishes to build something different than what is shown in the comprehensive plan designation, then they must do a comprehensive plan amendment,” Le said.

During that process, city staff evaluates the current land use designation for the parcel and the proposed changes, comparing them to the city's current and forecasted water supply.

“These comprehensive plan amendments can have either a negative or positive effect on water supply, and that importance of that impact is provided to city council when they consider that comprehensive plan amendment,” he said.

The meeting was scheduled before the Uplands vote in December to give both residents and councilors a better understanding of the current conditions and to determine a direction for Westminster to follow. 

“The intent of the session is to provide all of the city council and the public with a brief background on how we got to where we are on water, a replacement water treatment facility, and on the rates and tier structure itself. Then we will move in a discussion of options and directions for city council,” Andrews said.

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