Colorado Water Trust

Colorado is deeply connected to our rivers. They sustain us and all the life that surrounds us. Join Colorado Water Trust today and support our important work to realize a future where we all work together to share water in ways that sustain our rivers, our livelihoods, and our local economies.

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myRiver Balance

Class

Environment 

Beneficiaries

Animals
Families
General population

Description

myRiver Balance helps you balance your water use by returning the amount of water you use each year to Colorado's rivers and streams. It's easy! Just these 5 steps:
1. Determine the amount of water you would like to balance based on your annual water use (you can find a calculator on our website.)
2. Make a donation to myRiver Balance with an amount of your choice, based on your annual water use.
3. Colorado Water Trust will use myRiver Balance funds to purchase or lease water for a river, helping to balance Colorado's water equation.
4. Colorado Water Trust will provide you with a report on which rivers were boosted using the myRiver Balance Fund.
5. Share myRiver Balance with you family and friends!

The more funds we raise, the more water we can buy for rivers. Balance your annual water use with myRiver Balance today! Learn more at: ColoradoWaterTrust.org/myRiverBalance

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Evidence of Program's Success

Each year, Colorado Water Trust purchases or leases up to 2 billion gallons of water for Colorado rivers. Healthy river flows help provide habitat for fish and wildlife, flows for local recreation industries like fishing and boating, and provides communities with a beautiful, flowing river that they can be proud of. The more funds we raise, the more water we can buy for rivers. Balance your annual water use with myRiver Balance today!

The Yampa River - Improving Flows

Class

Environment 

Beneficiaries

Animals
Families
General population

Description

Join Colorado Water Trust and help us improve flows in the Yampa River!

If you live or spend a lot of time in the Yampa Valley, consider giving back to the Yampa River! When you donate to Colorado Water Trust's Yampa River project through ColoradoGives.Org - we will designate your money to purchasing water to boost flows in the Yampa River at critical times of need.

In 2022, with a new agreement in place with our partners at Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District (who own and operate Stagecoach Reservoir), we aim to purchase more water than we ever have before in a single year for the Yampa River -over 5000 acre-feet of water (1.6 billion gallons) throughout the summer and fall months. With support from caring and concerned individuals like you, we can make it possible and keep the river flowing at healthy levels year-round. Please consider a donation today!

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Evidence of Program's Success

Since 2012, Colorado Water Trust has worked with local partners in the Yampa Valley to support the Yampa River, purchasing and releasing water to the river when it suffers from low flows and high water temperatures. We have added nearly 17,000 acre-feet, or 4.6 billion gallons, of water to the Yampa River as a result of our project - at times, Colorado Water Trust's releases have accounted for over half of the flow of the Yampa River as it flowed through Steamboat Springs.

We were excited, in December of 2018, when the City of Steamboat Springs gave an official proclamation "Recognizing the Colorado Water Trust for its contribution to the health of the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs, Colorado."

Colorado River - the 15-Mile Reach

Class

Environment 

Beneficiaries

Animals
Families
General population

Description

The 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River, near Grand Junction, is home to four native, endangered or threatened fish species, and is also a notorious stretch of the Colorado that runs very low two times in most years. In collaboration with Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, which owns the Grand Valley hydropower plant just upstream of the reach, Colorado Water Trust purchases water from upstream reservoirs that flows to the plant. The water released typically flows through the Fryingpan River, the Roaring Fork River, and on to the Colorado River. Once the water arrives at the hydropower plant, it supports clean hydropower production, and then is released to boost flows and support the endangered warm-water fish at critical times of need.

In 2022, we intend to boost flows in the 15-Mile Reach by purchasing and releasing 1500 acre-feet (489 million gallons) of water. We would normally deliver our water for use at the hydropower plant first and then release it into the head of the 15-Mile Reach. However, in 2022, we will not be able to send the water through the hydropower plant because, with our financial support, they are rebuilding the plant to sustain it for the years to come and to increase its capacity. This year, we will use the water solely for endangered fish protection in the 15-Mile Reach, and there will be no clean power energy production component of our project.

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Evidence of Program's Success

Since 2019, Colorado Water Trust has purchased and released 2.06 billion gallons of water (or 6320 acre-feet) from Ruedi Reservoir which first flowed through the Fryingpan River, the Roaring Fork River, and then on to the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. Our partners at the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program advise us as to when the optimum times are to boost flows in order to improve habitat for fish. They also monitor their health and activity throughout the season.

This project brings together a unique diversity of partnerships each year including local irrigators, the hydropower operators, state and federal agencies, as well as a myriad of funders such as Intel Corporation, Major League Baseball, Coca Cola, Coors Seltzer, Lyda Hill Foundation, and Bonneville Environmental Foundation. It is a true testament that when we work together, we can achieve great success in managing our water in ways that can benefit our rivers and our environment.

Cache La Poudre River - Innovation in Water Sharing

Class

Environment 

Beneficiaries

Animals
Families
General population

Description

Colorado Water Trust is leading the charge on creating a water market to restore flows to the Cache La Poudre River in northern Colorado, as it flows from Fort Collins to Greeley. The idea is based on a commonly used tool water users employ to pool their water resources in times of shortage, an augmentation plan. But we've flipped it on its head, allowing water to be voluntarily returned to the river and pooled for environmental purposes. Once the market is operational, water will flow through seven sections of the Poudre that have historically been dry, keeping the river connected and improving natural habitat for fish and other wildlife.

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Evidence of Program's Success

Once successful, this will be the first project of its kind in Colorado. Its innovative legal structure could be implemented on other rivers throughout the state with willing participants. This project has been over a decade in the making. It is a broad collaboration of partners on the river with varying interests that are united in this effort to restore the river to healthy flows for the benefit of the environment. There will likely be significant media attention on this project when implemented.

Little Cimarron River - Agricultural Water Sharing

Class

Environment 

Beneficiaries

Animals
Families
General population

Description

The Little Cimarron River is a small but important river near Gunnison that supports a vibrant agricultural community. We are completing the state's first-ever permanent, split-season arrangement for high altitude hay operations (meaning water is diverted to grow hay for only a portion of the season, and kept in the river the rest). We are conducting a crucial experiment in sharing water, for the most common form of agriculture in western Colorado.

Additionally, we are conducting research with the Colorado Water Center (out of Colorado State University-Fort Collins), Trout Unlimited, and a ranch management company to determine what happens when high country irrigators fallow fields to save water and keep it in rivers. The purpose of this study is to determine: how much water deficit irrigation saves, how much it costs a farmer, and what happens to production and soil health in subsequent years.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

This project aims to prove that agriculture in Colorado can be a major player in the river conservation movement of the future in ways that do not sacrifice their economy and livelihoods. We aim to prove that we can restore rivers while maintaining the productivity of our much appreciated local farms and ranches. This study and project will provide us with a model to show more farmers and ranchers what to expect when working with us in the future.

In January 2014, Colorado Water Trust purchased a portion (5.8 cfs) of the McKinley Ditch to help restore late summer flows to the Little Cimarron. Project goals include keeping agricultural lands irrigated, keeping water flowing through a three mile segment of what is often dry stream, and reconnecting habitat. Colorado Water Trust and Colorado Water Conservation Board filed for a change of water right in water court in December 2014 to utilize their McKinley Ditch water for instream flow use in late summer and early fall, with the intent of keeping the water on the land for irrigation during spring and early summer. A final decree was signed on October 1st, 2018.

While working through the water court process, the Water Trust was exploring ideas for how to use their McKinley Ditch water until the decree is signed. As part of that effort, in July of 2016, the Water Trust received approval from the Upper Colorado River Commission to enroll the Water Rights in the 2016 System Conservation Pilot Program ("SCPP"). Enrolling the water rights in the SCPP allowed for the Water Trust's McKinley Ditch to irrigate approximately 195 acres of pasture grass from April through July 6th.

On July 7th, 2016, the water was removed from irrigation for the remainder of the irrigation season (the irrigation season ends annually on Oct. 31). The use of the McKinley Ditch shares in 2016 was beneficial both to the SCPP and the Water Trust, as operations mimicked future split season use and protected the water rights, before the final decree had been signed by the court. Water conserved by the Pilot Program helped to improve habitat conditions and provided benefit the Little Cimarron and downstream reaches of streams. We are hopeful the System Conservation Pilot Program results will help to identify reliable tools to address water shortages, and will lead to a more secure future for Colorado's rivers.

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