Getting to Know Lisa Darling: Q & A

In December, we announced the news that Lisa Darling, formerly the South Platte Program Manager with Aurora Water, had been selected to be the new Executive Director of South Metro Water Supply Authority. Now that she has been in this role for a few weeks, we sat down with her to talk about her past experience as well as her hopes for the future with SMWSA.

Q: You served for 18 years with Aurora Water, the state’s third-largest water utility. For the past 10 years, you managed the South Platte River Program. How has your involvement shaped your views on water and on the challenges and opportunities facing the south metro region?

A:  The City of Aurora relies on the South Platte River for over 50% of its raw water supply, and my role was to manage the operations, development, acquisition and the protection of those valuable assets. Of course, no one foresaw the 2002-2003 drought and its tremendous impact on water providers throughout Colorado.  In the years that followed, Aurora evaluated its system for new supply projects that would decrease its vulnerability to climate variations. Based on those assessments, the City developed the Prairie Waters Project, a $688 million reuse program that utilized reusable return flows and cutting edge water treatment technologies to add almost 20% greater supply to their water system.

Fast forward, and Aurora realized that Prairie Waters – with newly-developed infrastructure not yet fully utilized- represented a tremendous opportunity to work on a regional basis with others in the area, including Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority. Those initial cooperative efforts – starting as early as 2004, when the Authority was established – were the genesis of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership, or WISE.  Through those negotiations and realization of the WISE Agreement, I learned the importance of partnerships.  Over 2.5 million people live in the South Platte Basin in Colorado and we continue to grow. Farmers, people who live in central Denver, people who live in the suburbs and those who live in some of northeastern Colorado’s smaller towns all rely on that relatively small river for much of our water supply.  Partnerships where we cooperate and collaborate to stretch that water supply as much as we can are essential. And partnership is the heart of what the South Metro Water Supply Authority is all about. 

Q: You built an impressive resume as a leader in the water industry before joining South Metro Water Supply Authority as Executive Director. What motivated you to join South Metro Water?

A: Three things. Again, the fact that South Metro Water Supply Authority is all about partnerships, whether that is between our 13 water providers or partnerships with others in the state such as Denver Water and Aurora Water with the WISE Partnership.  Second, the opportunity to continue to build upon the tremendous progress that has been made in recent years to shift to renewable supplies of water, particularly in innovative ways.  It also means a lot to me that this region has a conservation record to be proud of. SMWSA has reduced per capita water demand by more than 30% since 2000. 

While significant progress has been made in our efforts, we definitely need to do more. We developed a four-point plan that I’m excited about and eager to implement. Our path ahead focuses on finding additional supply, developing additional storage, looking for advanced ways to manage water quality and TDS, and continuing to focus on conservation and efficiency.

Q: What are your top priorities at SMWSA and your goals as Executive Director?

A: I have three priorities that rise to the top.  First, continue the region’s progress in transitioning to renewable supplies.  10 years ago, less than half of our members’ water was from renewable supplies.  Based on our progress, we will be 85% renewable by 2065.  We need to stay on track.  Second, always improving our service to our members.  We have 13 wonderful members that have really come together to secure a more sustainable water future. Finally, a personal priority is to support will our dedicated staff. Their professional talent and expertise makes us successful year after year. And we definitely have a lot more to accomplish! Together, we look forward to the challenge. 

Lisa Darling to Head South Metro Water Supply Authority

Media Contact:
Russ Rizzo

  • Longtime leader on Colorado water resources selected to lead partnership of 13 water providers in South Denver Metro area
  • Darling to advance region’s progress transitioning to renewable water supply, maximizing efficiency and expanding storage

Greenwood Village, Colo., Dec. 2, 2016 – Lisa Darling, a leader with 25 years of experience in Colorado water resources, is the new executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority.

Darling will wlisa-darling-headshotork with SMWSA’s 13 water provider members to continue the
region’s progress toward securing a sustainable water future for its residents. Together, SMWSA members provide water to 80 percent of Douglas County and 10 percent of Arapahoe County.

“Lisa is a highly respected leader on Colorado water resources with a proven ability to advance our agenda for meeting the water needs of generations to come in the South Denver Metro area,” said Dave Kaunisto, president of the SMWSA board of directors. “She will be a tremendous advocate for our members as we continue to implement our strategic plan.”

Darling served 18 years with Aurora Water, the state’s third-largest water utility. For the past 10 years she managed the South Platte River Program. In that role she worked closely with SMWSA on the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership (WISE), a key component of the south metro region’s plan to transition to a renewable water supply. She also played a key leadership role in the Prairie Waters Project, a major component of Aurora’s plan to secure additional renewable supplies.

“I am honored and excited to work with South Metro Water Supply Authority’s members to advance their vision and continue the remarkable progress the region has made toward a sustainable water future,” Darling said. “I look forward to continuing the organization’s collaboration and partnership with leaders across the region and state.”

As part of her role, Darling will also lead the South Metro Wise Authority, which is responsible for completing the construction of and operating WISE.

The WISE project is a key component to the region’s plans to secure new sustainable sources of water. With collaboration among 10 SMWSA members, Denver Water, Aurora Water and East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District (ECCV), the project represents the largest partnership in the region’s history to invest in water infrastructure. When complete, WISE will create a significant new renewable supply for participating South Metro members. In turn, Denver will receive a new backup supply, and Aurora will get funds to offset costs of the Prairie Waters Project.

The South Denver Metro region has made tremendous progress toward its strategic goals over the past 12 years thanks to aggressive efforts to conserve water, maximize efficiency and invest in renewable water supplies. The region is on track to meet projected demand for the region as far out as 2065, though more work is needed to ensure that happens, according to a recent update to the region’s master plan.

“The South Metro Water Supply Authority has established itself as a leader in a number of important areas, including maximizing efficiency, developing strategic partnerships to bring online new renewable supplies and expanding storage,” Darling said. “Together with our leadership and members, we will continue to lead with an eye toward protecting and enhancing the quality of life of our region and the state.”  

Darling will work with members to continue that progress with a focus on four key areas:

  • Securing additional renewable supplies
  • Developing additional storage
  • Managing water quality
  • Conserving and maximizing water efficiency


About South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA)

The South Metro Water Supply Authority is 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.

Through increased negotiating power and collaborative support for new projects, SMWSA is transforming the region’s water supply and creating a sustainable future for generations to come. For more information, visit:


A Letter From the Board

September 20, 2016

As you know, South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA) was formed in 2004 for the purpose of helping our region develop renewable and sustainable water supplies and shift away from its historic reliance on nonrenewable groundwater.  Our recent Master Plan Update found that while we have more to do on this effort, we have nonetheless made tremendous progress.  We owe much of that progress to our Executive Director, Eric Hecox.

Eric has informed the SMWSA Board that he has been offered and has accepted the position of Vice President with Shea Properties.  This is a wonderful opportunity for him.  Shea is an outstanding company with great leadership and great assets.  Moreover, Eric’s new responsibilities will continue his strong involvement in water issues in the region while also expanding his horizon into new areas.

The Board and the staff will miss his leadership but he is leaving the organization in very good shape.  He has assembled an outstanding team who will continue the work begun during his tenure, including fully implementing the WISE project and delivering renewable water to the South Metro members, securing additional water storage and new supplies, and continuing to implement South Metro’s other important programs which are helping us successfully transition to renewable supplies. 

The Board and membership remain as committed as ever to our mission.  The Board has begun the process of finding a new Executive Director to carry on the work of the organization.  In the meantime, Rick Marsicek, who currently serves as Director of Engineering of SMWSA, will serve as interim Executive Director.  We are confident that the solid foundation Eric has helped establish for the organization and the path we are on to ensure a sustainable water supply for the South Metro region will continue.

Eric’s last day will be September 23rd.  I know you join us in wishing Eric all the best in this exciting new endeavor, and thank you for all that you do to ensure a secure water future for our region.


Dave Kaunisto                    Mark Marlowe

President, SMWSA             President, WISE Authority