The Colorado Water Conservation Board voted unanimously July 21
to name Sterling Ranch, a proposed water-efficient community south
of Chatfield Reservoir, to become the state’s first rainwater
harvesting pilot project.
Sterling Ranch’s innovative water conservation plan currently
calls for using just one-third the water traditionally required in
Douglas County — without relying on rainwater collection. With the
rainwater pilot designation, Sterling Ranch will develop a new
water source to be used for outside irrigation that could result in
even more water supply savings.
“We are very excited about this pilot project,” said Geoff
Blakeslee, chairman of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, at
the board meeting held in Salida.
Sterling Ranch estimates that at least half of the community’s
outdoor irrigation demand can be met by capturing rainwater from
storm drainage systems and rooftops in underground storage tanks or
retention ponds and recycling it to water the community’s lawns,
gardens and open space.
“This is a giant leap forward for water conservation,” said
Harold Smethills, Sterling Ranch managing director. “It combines
forward-thinking rainwater harvesting with Sterling Ranch’s vision
for innovative water conservation. This has been done effectively
in many other states and it’s time to put this water supply to use
in Colorado as well.”
Smethills and his family made water conservation a top priority
for Sterling Ranch from the start. During a decade of planning, the
family grew passionate about the possibility of incorporating
rainwater harvesting into their planned water conservation
practices. Sterling Ranch was a key supporter of HB 1129, signed by
Gov. Ritter in June, 2009, that permits 10 pilot residential
developments to use rainwater collection systems.
“Sterling Ranch is an ideal pilot site,” said state Sen. Ted
Harvey, one of the bill’s sponsors. “It’s the largest undeveloped
parcel in water-challenged Douglas County, and its founders are
committed to cutting-edge conservation methods to save Colorado’s
most precious resource.”
A 2007 study commissioned by the water conservation board showed
that on average in northwest Douglas County just 3 percent of
annual rainwater actually reaches a stream. Ninety-seven percent
either evaporates or is used by vegetation.
As part of the pilot project, Sterling Ranch’s data collection
will measure the potential of rainwater harvesting as a
supplemental water supply and will explore how the water supply
could be developed without affecting senior water rights.
“We hope Sterling Ranch will be a model for future developments
in Colorado by pairing rainwater harvesting with outdoor demand
management to save more water than traditional conservation
methods,” said Smethills. “Rainwater collection is a natural
opportunity that fits with our vision and the community’s way of
Sterling Ranch is a 3,400-acre proposed community in
northwestern Douglas County that will create more than 4,000
permanent jobs at build-out, 1,000 construction jobs annually for
20 years, and a $411 million economic impact at completion. For
more information, go to www.sterlingranchcolorado.com.
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