Closing 2017 and Getting Ready for 2018!

Blog

December 11, 2017

By Andy Schultheiss, Executive Director


Dear Friends –

As the Colorado Water Trust’s new Executive Director, I’m proud to lead this outstanding team during such an exciting time of growth and opportunity. Building off of 16 years of impressive and impactful work in service of Colorado’s rivers, we have more bandwidth now than ever before and are poised to bring flow restoration to a whole new level.

That said, I have news I want to share with you about the upcoming year, which will be a critical year for the Water Trust. We are getting ready to begin projects which, if successful, could launch the Water Trust into a new era of river restoration. Exciting times are ahead!

We are building new tools for flow restoration across Colorado, expanding and strengthening our partnerships, and solving some of the most critical issues on some of our biggest rivers. So long as we have your support, we can make projects, like a potential project on the Crystal River, a reality.

The Crystal River, near Carbondale, is an example of where one of our innovative and new tools for flow restoration is taking off. As streamflows dipped low in the summer of 2012, our staff stood in front of the valley’s agricultural community and proposed a drought water leasing program, a new idea for bolstering flows in the Crystal River during times when the river is critically low. Reactions were mixed to say the least and it was clear that the Water Trust had a lot more homework to do.

Colorado’s rivers and streams provide the most important resource to the agricultural industry, which is a major part of Colorado’s economy and an enormous part of our cultural heritage. The Water Trust is working hard on figuring out new ways to keep farms and ranchers productive while restoring water to thirsty rivers. As our Board member Dave Taussig recently said, “We want green fields and blue waters.”

So, we stepped back and spent some time asking questions and listening. Formal leases were likely not the right tool for that community, and the irrigators raised thoughtful questions about how much water was needed to keep the river healthy. While our local partners, Public Counsel of the Rockies and Roaring Fork Conservancy, started down a detailed scientific examination of the river and its needs, the Water Trust went back to the drawing board to incorporate ranchers’ concerns into streamflow restoration proposals that might get us closer to green fields and blue waters.

Today we have an agreement in concept with a Crystal River ranch for a three-year pilot project. The goal is to incentivize the ranch to include the river’s needs in the complicated calculus of the ranch’s water management. In wet years, the agreement would hibernate; but in drier years, financial incentives would become available, and the rancher could earn money by shifting the timing of irrigation to help the river when it reaches critically low levels.

We’re only a couple of approvals away before we can officially cut the ribbon on this project, so stay tuned for more news. Once implemented, we will work with our local partners to carefully monitor the pilot project and report back to the community on the outcomes.

This is a project borne out of the philosophy that agriculture does not have to lose for the environment to win.

We think projects like this are a result of our optimism, our commitment to listening, and our persistence in the quest for solutions that benefit all. Of course, this takes hundreds of hours of the Water Trust’s time and expertise and is why support from our donors empowers us. We need your help to create more partnerships and to implement innovative projects. You can do this by making a year-end gift to the Water Trust now.

We pride ourselves on working with people and partners with diverse interests from all across Colorado. Throughout our history, the Water Trust has collaborated with a wide variety of partners, like large corporations, small local businesses, foundations, conservation and community groups, utilities, private landowners, and federal and state agencies. Our success over the past 16 years has always been because of the power of our partnerships.

When we have the opportunity to start new work on a river in need, it is thanks to our supporters that we can implement projects. Our donors have helped us to restore over 8 billion gallons of water to nearly 400 miles of Colorado’s rivers and streams. When you give to the Water Trust, you are actively involved in improving the health of our rivers for fish, wildlife, and people. Your support brings about positive change, right here in Colorado.

While we’ve been able to prove that solutions exist in our current water systems to restore rivers, there are many more rivers that need our help. With more people moving west, our rivers are at greater risk. Because of our partnerships and experience, it’s time for us to reach out and do more for Colorado’s rivers. And of course, we need your help to do this.  

The Water Trust has spent the past 16 years finding and creating solutions within our state’s legal system. With your help, we will tackle these challenges using new, more comprehensive tools, building more partnerships, and taking these solutions to a larger scale on longer stretches of some of the biggest rivers in Colorado.  

I am honored to lead this organization as we build projects that can change the way we move water in Colorado to protect our most critically in-need rivers. I look forward to the day I can meet you and work with you for a better future for Colorado’s rivers, and until then, please feel free to contact me anytime at aschultheiss(at)coloradowatertrust.org or 720-570-2897.

If you have made a contribution to us in the past, thank you. We are honored to have your support. If you are new to our Water Trust family, please consider digging deep and making a contribution to us today.

Thank you for supporting us during this exciting year, and let’s get ready to welcome 2018!

Best Regards –

Andy Schultheiss, Executive Director