Have you ever wondered how community gardening or urban agriculture could help manage stormwater runoff, or reduce demand on water supplies? If you answered yes, WaterNow Alliance is pleased to share that our new research initiative – in partnership with Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Department of Local Affairs and Western Resource Advocates – will explore this exact question.

In Colorado, drought, climate change, and population growth are exacerbating the state’s water resource management challenges. Simultaneously, our urban communities are increasingly facing warming cities, public health challenges, food insecurity, and a lack of open green space. To address these challenges, Western states need to think outside the box and explore all available tools for integrating their water and land use planning to build more resilient cities and towns.

The multitude of benefits associated with community gardens and urban agriculture in our communities, including access to fresh foods, reducing the urban heat island affect, and improving food security in low-income communities, are clear and widely known. Less examined is the possibility of using urban agriculture in the land use planning process as a stormwater management tool and a water conservation tool.

This is why our new research initiative will address the following questions: Can community gardening and urban agriculture in Colorado, and the Intermountain West, help us to both manage stormwater runoff and reduce our demand on municipal water supplies? And if so, what policy actions can be taken to encourage urban agriculture as a land use planning and water resource management tool?

This project will kick-off with a comprehensive literature review to identify existing research on the water quality and water quantity benefits associated with community gardens and urban agriculture. Next, we’ll conduct extensive stakeholder engagement with community gardening organizations, water utilities, and others to better understand the opportunities and barriers associated with community gardens and urban agriculture. The goal of this work is to inform an actionable policy roadmap that encourages more community gardens and urban agriculture in Colorado and the rest of the Intermountain West. This policy roadmap would also inform the 2022 update to the Colorado Water Plan.

This is an exciting opportunity to uncover and more clearly articulate the potential water resource benefits of community gardening and urban agriculture. We look forward working with our partners on this initiative to benefit the Intermountain West region and beyond.

If you are interested in supporting this initiative, please contact Lindsay Rogers and John Berggren ([email protected], [email protected]).

Photo credit: raised bed vegetable garden"  by normanack is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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