Historically, important tributaries and sections of the upper Rio Grande River in Colorado flowed at critically low levels during the winter months. With water stored in upstream reservoirs, depleted winter flows reduced groundwater recharge and adversely affected habitat for trout and other aquatic species.
Trout Unlimited is leading a partnership with agencies, farmers and water managers and using new tools to flexibly manage, store and deliver water during critical times of the years to increase flows and facilitate groundwater recharge. By leasing water, exchanging water at critical times, and shifting the timing of water delivery, project partners have been able to increase habitat for fish and provide important economic and community benefits for residents in the region.
During pilot implementation in 2016-2017, winter flows on the Conejos River and upper Rio Grande were some of the best in recorded history—this led to improved habitat for fish, greater certainty for irrigators, and important groundwater recharge. Based on the positive results from 2016-2017, Trout Unlimited and the project partners seek to expand the scale and impact of this work in the coming years. Innovative partnerships and projects like this demonstrate how water supplies can be managed to meet the needs of the rivers, economies, and communities.
* Project supports voluntary transactions to change, reduce or stop water use – either temporarily or permanently – to protect or restore water for environmental benefit
** This resource has been reviewed and found to meet the BEF Flow Program Certification Criteria for Evaluating Proposals to Secure Environmental Flows by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.