The Upper Basin Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (“DCP”), signed May 2019, was created to maintain sufficient Lake Powell storage levels for consumptive water demand and for hydropower generation. One of the most important requirements of the DCP is the obligation for Upper Basin states to explore the feasibility of demand management programs for their respective states. This exploratory process is ongoing for Upper Basin states. The DCP exploratory process, as well as the potential implementation of demand management programs, offer unique opportunities for water professionals to increase the role of public engagement in the implementation of a particular type of demand management known as water-smart growth planning. These opportunities create an improved relationship between what some have referred to as an historical divide between urban and rural water users. Public engagement is crucial for implementing the integration of water-smart growth planning with large scale, multisectoral needs. Water-smart growth planning represents a strategy of conserving water for urban areas which can consequently improve the urban-rural relationship by encouraging cities to shoulder a proportionate responsibility for conserving water, limiting unsustainable growth, and, consequently, diverting less water from agricultural areas. This article proposes three mechanisms meant to enhance the integration between a public engagement which links water-smart growth planning with multiregional water needs in order to cultivate better relationships between urban and rural water users. These include: (1) water-smart growth updates to San Juan Basin municipal development codes, their integration with the next Regional Water Plan update, and its public outreach process; (2) the interrelated mechanism of expanding water market transactions in order to integrate greater engagement between regional municipalities who have adopted water-smart growth planning and San Juan River users such as the Navajo Nation; and (3) the development of Colorado State University’s collaborative framework, “Atlas of Collaborative Conservation in Colorado,” in order to generate information on water use, including associated pricing, and assign implementation capabilities to environmental organizations within Colorado’s eight major river basins.

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