MISSION OF THE BASIN: Proactively manage water conservation in the face of climate change and drought.
The iconic Colorado River brings life to seven U.S. states and parts of Mexico. It irrigates five million acres of agricultural lands, serves 30 Native American tribes, and provides drinking water for more than 40 million people. In recent decades, climate change has aridified the Colorado River Basin so dramatically that the apportionments of the 1922 Colorado River Compact, which governs use of the river’s waters, appear unattainable. On Colorado’s West Slope, The Freshwater Trust is partnering with the Colorado River District to build resilience in agricultural and ecological systems under this “new normal.” We are also working with the largest irrigation district in Colorado to design programs that conserve water, strengthen agricultural productivity, and improve watershed health.
Our work with the Colorado West Land Trust in this same region is providing new tools and insights to help conservation groups manage their water rights portfolios. In Steamboat Springs, TFT has helped the city design a program to address temperature issues in the Yampa River—cooling the river by planting trees and restoring shaded wooded floodplains.
And on Colorado’s Front Range, in the South Platte and the Arkansas River basins, TFT is driving projects that optimize the use of limited water supplies—building equity between water users while restoring habitat—efforts that can reduce dependencies on Colorado River Basin water. With the growing frequency of drought conditions, these approaches will likely be required across the western United States.