Douglas County is encouraging housing developers to use more renewable water sources.
The county held a late afternoon public workshop on Nov. 14 for proposed changes to the county's water zoning plan.
Conversation was diligent and thorough, …
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Conversation was diligent and thorough, despite a sparsely attended meeting of six people in addition to county staff.
The exact portion of the plan under review is Section 18A, which helps determine if a proposed development has an adequate water supply, particularly in terms of quality, quantity and dependability. Douglas County's Board of Commissioners first adopted 18A in 1998, but it has been revised in 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2013.
County experts said the regulations are primarily for new housing developments or properties seeking to rezone for reasons like expansion. Additionally, they mostly pertain to unincorporated Douglas County, as most municipalities or other water districts have their own regulations.
The main changes in Section 18A were to remove about 15 pages of repetitive sections and more clearly explain if a developer would qualify.
But staff also has proposed Section 18B, an entirely new set of regulations that will act as an alternative to Section 18A.
As the resolution stands, developers must meet a water demand standard of .75 acre-feet per residence per year.
A demand standard is an estimate of how much water a household or development will need, said Kati Rider, a planning resource supervisor with Douglas County.
An acre-foot is how water is measured. One way to think of it, Rider said, is to imagine it as the equivalent to the amount of water that woud spread across an acre of land at one foot deep.
However, county staff said, the average household uses closer to .40 or .45 acre-feet. The .75 standard is costly for developers and may require them to source more water than necessary.
"This revision may matter to residents as it may be a way to encourage new development to utilize renewable water resources, rather than groundwater, in all areas of the county," Rider said.
Under 18B, developers could propose higher-density developments if they also promise to use less groundwater, rely on more renewable water sources and prove they can accomplish that goal.
Not more than 50 percent of the water supply could come from non-renewable sources. Although the overall amount of water use might be greater, the hope is to encourage a more environmental approach.
If the amendments continue to gain traction, they would pass before the Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners for final approval.
Public comment is accepted at www.douglas.co.us through Nov. 23. Information aboutthe amendments may be found through the county's Project Records Online (PRO) online tool.
Commissioners will schedule a work session to review the input after public comment closes.
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