Our Vision, Our Plan
For over a century and a half, Colorado’s complex water allocation system has focused on taking water out of rivers. But when the Colorado Water Trust was founded in 2001, our job was to prove the concept that this same system also held key tools for restoring depleted river flows.
In 2016, we celebrated 15 years of our work, during which we have proven that we can restore and protect streamflows within Colorado’s complex water system. In our brief history, we’ve implemented 27 flow restoration projects returning over 6.5 billion gallons (or 20,000 acre-feet) of water to nearly 400 miles of rivers and streams. We’re incredibly proud of our work and of the projects we’ve implemented with our partners.
Because we’ve always worked strategically through a clear plan that directed our existing resources in the most laser-beam focused ways, we realized in 2016 that there was more demand than ever for our work. We needed to re-focus. We also realized the work—to keep up with the demand, seize opportunities that had presented themselves, and lower barriers to participation—needed to be larger, or “at scale.”
The question then became, how? During the last fifteen years, we’ve built the prototype to implement projects. Our challenge now is how to deploy our project processes and our strategies in more places, while creating project architecture that lowers water transaction costs, timeframes for success, and barriers to implementation both for us and our partners.
With this in mind, we’ve revised our mission statement and strategic plan, not in content, but in focus. Rephrased now, our mission is to “restore flows to Colorado’s rivers in need.” We believe this better reflects the fact that we remain focused solely on flow restoration, but our approach has expanded, including formal projects that work with Colorado’s Instream Flow Program, to informal agreements with water users, to infrastructure projects, and to projects that will help amplify flow restoration efforts of others.
During the next three years, our goal is to implement at least three comprehensive and innovative projects which not only restore streamflows, but also provide new solutions for our water challenges—template projects, pilot projects, projects that can tackle shortages at the basin-scale, projects that are replicable elsewhere, projects where the whole is more than the sum of the parts—and then to hand off what we know to others.
We will continue to work with organizations and people who share and support our mission, giving them the resources to continue and expand the work of putting water back in rivers. Our knowledge and tools can be shared and leveraged to increase the flow restoration movement’s capacity and make a greater impact on Colorado’s streams and rivers.
And finally, we are creating a clearer process for the existing projects we have, for the straightforward water transactions. This will allow our current work to continue while we work in a more targeted way in the innovation space.
But keep in mind that these are the flow restoration elements of our new strategic plan, and this work doesn’t occur on its own. Just like any sound business, we have additional goals that focus on increasing our resources, improving our communications, expanding our fundraising programs, ensuring we have a talented and happy staff, and continuing to streamline our business operations.
This is our work: to restore flows to Colorado’s rivers in need. We will continue to provide leadership and offer our expertise to projects that achieve our vision. Because we know that when rivers are healthy, everyone benefits, ranging from wildlife, to people, to businesses, to communities, and far beyond.
It’s an exciting time at the Water Trust, and we’re ready to seize opportunities and tackle the challenges ahead as we work for a sustainable water future for Colorado.