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GSA Region 8 Is Proactively Saving and Repurposing Water

Climate change is doing more than just increasing the odds of forest death, wildfires and extreme wind in the western United States. Warmer temperatures are also causing river flows to decline while demand for water is increasing. The Colorado River, one of the primary rivers of the Southwest, provides irrigation to agriculture, power for electricity and drinking water for 40 million people, has declined by nearly 20% since the beginning of the century. 

R8 Final Water Savings Flower Infographic

The Denver Federal Center (DFC) is proactively planning phased water reduction projects over the next several years, as budgets allow, to reduce the demand for irrigation. Irrigation is a large component of its water usage.

“Since the DFC Roads & Grounds team utilizes a large amount of domestic water for plants and grass during the spring through fall timeframe for irrigating, the logical thing to do is look to find ways to minimize that consumption,'' said Tony Phelps, DFC Property Manager and Team Lead. “Our Energy and Sustainability team is tasked with ensuring water reduction so our combined efforts will find ways to do that on the DFC campus” added Phelps.

When all is said and done, these improvements will make the DFC landscape more adaptable to a future with less water, better able to withstand climate impacts and save the government money. Additionally, they will help GSA meet Federal Executive Order (14057) for federal facilities to reduce water by 2% annually and the State of Colorado water reduction goal to conserve 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water conservation by 2050. (One acre-foot equals 326,000 gallons)

Other ongoing water savings projects/agreements: 

GSA owns and operates Downing Reservoir on the DFC. Water is being drawn from Downing Reservoir and used for hand irrigating flowers and plants, where possible, as well as all construction projects and grass regrowth in construction areas without irrigation; or when irrigation systems are not running. There is a plan to seek funding for piping from Downing Reservoir to the easternmost portions of the campus to fully irrigate those areas from the reservoir rather than use any potable water. When those funds become available, the amount of treated, potable water used to irrigate on the DFC would be cut drastically. 

The water in Downing Reservoir is from snow-melt runoff entering an agricultural ditch that runs north to south through the DFC. GSA negotiated an agreement with the owners of the ditch to carry water to Downing Reservoir. The owners of the ditch regulate water flow during the irrigation season, typically April - September each year, depending upon the amount of snowpack and rainfall. As part of the negotiated carriage agreement, GSA purchased a share (1/40th a share of stock) of the agricultural ditch from the Jefferson County School District (Jeffco). Jeffco has the option to lease back the water associated with the subject share on an annual basis if they need the water for their facilities should they deem it necessary. 

R8 Water Gallons saved infographic


*This infographic shows Downing Reservoir’s water usage in recent months.