South Denver Metro Shares Lessons on Path to Sustainable Water Future

By Eric Hecox

This month the South Metro Water Supply Authority, with our technical consultants CH2M, released a comprehensive assessment of the South Denver Metro region’s water future.

The study shows we have come a long way from the days of front-page headlines decrying the region as “running dry.” We can now say with confidence that we are on the path to a secure water future. We know where we’re going, and we know how to get there.

The results are summarized in recent newspaper articles (“The Future Looks Bright for Local Water Sources”) and on our website. In short, we have accomplished three major goals:

  • We have made significant progress in transitioning to a renewable water supply that will continue to become more balanced over time. By 2065, renewable water sources will account for 85 percent of our water supply, up significantly from just 12 years ago.
  • We have determined our future needs and what we need to do to meet them. While there is still work to be done, we are on the right path.
  • We have established an ethic of conservation with a 30 percent reduction of per capita water demand over the last 12 years, and a commitment to do even more.

For regions facing their own water challenges, there are lessons to be drawn from our work in the South Denver Metro region.

First is the importance of partnerships. By working together, the 13 water providers that comprise SMWSA have made a much larger impact than they could working in isolation. Partnerships with other regional water entities – including Aurora Water and Denver Water on the WISE Project and other initiatives – have been instrumental to our success. Similarly important are collaborative working relationships with entities such as the Colorado Water Conservation Board, other basins and their roundtables and many others.

Second, none of this is possible without investment. Our progress is a result of a number of significant projects. In addition to WISE, they include the ACWWA/ECCV Northern Project, the Rueter-Hess Reservoir, the Chatfield Reallocation Project, and many more.

Lastly, conservation and efficiency play a critical role in our success. By aggressively pursuing conservation strategies and becoming a leader in the state in water reuse, we have put the South Denver Metro region on a path to a sustainable water future.

If you would like to learn more about our efforts to date and plans moving forward, feel free to get in touch by sending me an email at M
ore information is available on our website:

You can also read more about the WISE Project and other regional collaborative effHW SUMMER coverorts in “Linking Up: The Case for Regionalization” from the summer issue of Headwaters magazine, published by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education:  And explore CFWE’s new Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Water Conservation for a comprehensive overview of the most current and effective strategies to improve water efficiency at an individual and community scale.


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Eric Hecox is executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a regional water authority comprised of 13 water provider members that collectively serve about 80 percent of the population of Douglas County and 10 percent of Arapahoe County. SMWSA was established in 2004 to develop and execute a plan to provide a secure and sustainable water future for the region. Eric is also president of the board of directors for the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. 

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