We know working lands and healthy rivers can coexist.
California may be today’s ground zero for water scarcity in America. But if recent years have shown us anything, it’s that the challenge of keeping a river full and flowing is one shared across the American West.
We understand that while agriculture may account for more than 80 percent of consumptive water in many Western states, we cannot simply trade it for conservation. We must implement practical, workable solutions that work for both fish and farmers. And we must do this in the face of a changing climate. We know working lands and healthy rivers can coexist.
We work hand-in-hand with willing farmers, ranchers and other landowners to develop voluntary, incentive-based water management strategies that balance out-of-stream needs for water like irrigation with the need to keep water flowing for water quality and habitat protection.
Ways we improve water quantity
Landowners voluntarily lease a portion or all of their water rights to The Freshwater Trust to keep more water instream.
We assist farmers with transferring points of diversion from smaller tributaries to larger mainstream rivers in order to keep flow where it is needed the most.
We upgrade infrastructure to improve irrigation efficiency and reduce freshwater losses.
Water Use Agreements
Water users agree to shorten the length of their irrigation season or withdraw water only when certain minimum flows are met.
How do we know our techniques to improve water quantity are working?
- Nation’s oldest water trust
- Conducted 238 flow restoration projects since 1993, involving over 650 transactions
- More than 200 landowners across Oregon currently partner with us to restore streamflow in eight major basins
- Restore between 98 to 163 million gallons per minute each irrigation season
- Helped develop the Fifteenmile Action to Stabilize Temperature (FAST), a voluntary program that helps keep more water instream for endangered fish when death stream temperatures are forecasted
- A minimum flow agreement in the Lostine River to maintain 15 cfs instream during critical months, in coordination with efforts from local basin partners, has helped support the recovery of the river’s Chinook salmon run from under 50 adults in the early 1990s to over 2,000 adults in 2014.
We provide financial incentives to manage land and water in ways that balance the instream needs of fish and their habitat with your economic and social needs.
Yes. Although it may not look like much, restoring small quantities of water to small streams often brings great benefits for native fish species. For this reason, we focus much of our work in the small tributary streams where fish spawn.
We work with you to ensure that leaving your water instream will not negatively impact upstream and downstream water users. In most cases, when a landowner leaves water instream, the impact to other water users will be the same as if the landowner were using the water for irrigation.
No. We work hard to ensure the transaction is mutually beneficial for both your operation and the water resource. We have never placed a landowner’s water rights in jeopardy, and in some cases, we have helped landowners preserve their water rights. Water right holders who have suspended their water can work with us to prevent forfeiture by shifting use to support instream habitat. In all cases, we extensively research your water rights before making a customized recommendation. If we identify any issues with a water right, we immediately notify you. Because we work with landowners on a voluntary basis, the landowner always has the final say on whether to proceed with any recommended transaction.
No. We use a variety of methods and tools to help landowners improve asset efficiency as we restore instream flow. In fact, many of our most commonly used tools do not involve the permanent purchase of water rights. These include short-term leases, late-season shut-offs and split-season leases. Our preferred tool ultimately depends on a number of factors, including the landowner’s long-term goals, type of agricultural production, irrigation methods, funding sources, state laws and instream flow needs.
Get in touch
Have questions about how we improve water quantity or where we work?
Meg Belais, Northwest Programs Director