Colorado's Water Plan laid out numerous actions needed to ensure secure supplies for cities, the environment, agriculture, and recreation in the decades ahead. One important step called for improving efficiency and coordination in what can be a lengthy water supply permitting process.
To put this into action, the plan called on the Colorado Water Conservation Board to host a series of Lean events with relevant permitting agencies and stakeholders to examine current processes and determine how to make them more efficient and effective. Lean is a set of principles and methods for identifying and eliminating waste for any process in order to improve the customer experience. Lean rapid improvement events engage employees and customers to identify problems and implement solutions. Lean seeks to create a culture of continuous improvement where employees are encouraged to identify and fix problems.
The State of Colorado and the Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 jointly convened a Lean event focusing on water supply permitting by bringing together representatives from state, local, and federal water supply agencies. In addition, representatives from water utilities, environmental groups, and other stakeholder groups were present to share their individual experiences with large water supply project permitting.
The project included a one-day scoping event in February 2016 and a three-day Lean event following in March. The Lean event examined the initiation of NEPA and project scoping of water supply permitting projects in Colorado. The participants outlined a vision that the group would recommend an efficient process that is scientifically sound, credible, defensible, and environmentally responsible. At the conclusion of the event, the participants agreed to put in place several improvements to the process and is working on a set of implementation items to be uploaded to this webpage. These improvements seek to increase communication and cooperation across federal, state, and local regulators, as well as non-governmental stakeholders, and establish best practices for future water supply projects.
NEW! Colorado Water Supply Planning and Permitting Handbook (October 2017)
Many water bodies in Colorado have existing water quality problems, are over-allocated, and have degraded channel, riparian and flow conditions. Consequently, some rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands have lost much of their resiliency to recover from additional impacts. A relatively small project today, with seemingly minor impacts, is likely to have a greater impact than the same project would have had when the water body was less stressed. An added complication is that the mitigation of impacts from new projects is likely more complex and expensive than would have been for comparable actions 30 years ago. Given the value and current condition of water resources and the expectation that water supply projects serve many uses, thoughtful and robust planning and assessment of effects on impacted waters help inform decisions that affect the long-term future of Colorado.
This handbook describes key steps in the water supply planning and permitting process and also includes a number of helpful tips and guidance:
- Chapter 2 describes principles to guide initial planning efforts.
- Chapter 3 describes various federal, state, and local regulations, their triggers and other processes that may apply to water supply projects in Colorado.
- Chapter 4 provides a timeline and details possible efficiencies gained when applicants integrate planning, NEPA and the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting process.
- Chapter 5 focuses on typical water quality impacts considered in the NEPA, and Clean Water Act Sections 404 and 401 reviews.
- Chapter 6 provides guidance for consistent assessment methodologies that may reduce duplicative efforts among agencies.
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