Colorado River Basin Water Scarcity Challenge

January 12, 2022

Media Contacts:

  • Matt Lindsay, Quantified Ventures. 202-425-1792,
  • Kate Ryan, Colorado Water Trust, 720-756-5579,

Three Emerging Water Management Projects Win Colorado River Basin Water Scarcity Challenge


Challenge Organizers Will Work with Selected Project Teams to Develop Outcomes-Based Solutions to Acquire and Manage Keystone Water Rights in Colorado for Ecological Benefits, Expand High-Efficiency Irrigation on Tribal Reservations, and Enhance Water Resilience in Southern Arizona

DENVER, CO and WASHINGTON, DC — Three emerging initiatives to address water scarcity and supply enhancement in the western U.S. have been selected as winners of the Colorado River Basin Water Scarcity Challenge, the challenge organizers announced today. The selected organizations will work with Quantified Ventures (QV) – at no charge, thanks to grant funding – to design, finance, and scale investible, cost-effective solutions that deliver beneficial outcomes for Colorado River Basin ecosystems and communities.

Approximately 40 million people in communities across 7 U.S. states and 30 recognized tribes depend on increasingly depleted water from the Colorado River. The three selected projects will:

Design an innovative financing approach to acquire water rights and manage them for ecological benefits: This project with Colorado Water Trust (CWT) will develop and implement a funding/financing approach to acquire keystone water rights that can be managed to generate important ecological and regional benefits. To date, the large upfront cost and the unpredictable timing of market opportunities has been a barrier to acquiring senior water rights with high ecological value. CWT and QV will collectively formulate and pilot a new funding and financing strategy to allow CWT to acquire keystone water rights, with the aim of building a broader sustainable framework of water rights acquisition and management.

Expand deployment of high-efficiency irrigation on tribal reservations in the Colorado River Basin: This project with N-Drip will explore funding and financing strategies, new revenue streams, and adaptation techniques to deploy N-Drip’s high-efficiency irrigation technology on irrigated land throughout the Colorado River Basin, including within tribal reservations. Implementing and scaling N-Drip irrigation technology will alleviate demand pressure on the Colorado River system and help growers, tribes, and communities become more resilient to drought, water scarcity, and climate change challenges. The project will assess the funding opportunities for water and climate resilience projects, the potential to leverage project outcomes, and the replicability of N-Drip technology throughout the western U.S.

Restore seasonal and perennial flows to the Sabino and Tanque Verde Creek systems and build hydro-resilience in the Tucson metro area: This project with Watershed Management Group (WMG) will develop and implement projects and programs that increase the resilience of Tucson’s water portfolio, particularly its groundwater resources. Restoring seasonal and perennial flows to the Sabino and Tanque Verde Creek systems requires a stable groundwater aquifer. WMG and QV will collaboratively quantify outcomes, engage key stakeholders, develop funding/financing approaches, and implement a suite of projects and programs – such as groundwater conservation programs, green stormwater infrastructure, and recycled water strategies – that support local water resilience and reduce dependency on Colorado River water supplies.

The selected applicants began work with Quantified Ventures in December 2022 to design and capitalize the initiatives, a process that is expected to last approximately 12 months, with some variance based on the project specifics. Grant funding from Gates Family Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation enables Quantified Ventures to structure the challenge and provide complimentary advisory services to selected projects.

This is the sixth outcomes-based challenge conducted by Quantified Ventures. Previous challenges have resulted in capital and greater scale for a number of environment and resilience initiatives, including:

Comments from Colorado River Basin Water Scarcity Challenge Funders and Organizers
“We are thrilled by the pace of innovation focused on water scarcity in the western U.S.,” said Eric Letsinger, CEO of Quantified Ventures. “Time is a luxury we don’t have when it comes to drought and water shortages, and we all know business as usual won’t adequately respond to the moment. We’re getting down to work with our collaborators in the Colorado River Basin to develop bold, investable solutions that build

“As the crisis in the Colorado River basin continues to grow, now is the time to support projects and partnerships that can discover new and creative solutions that consider equity, climate, and long-term collaboration,” said Whitney Johnson, Senior Program Officer for Natural Resources at the Denver-based Gates Family Foundation. “We’re investing in Quantified Ventures’ Colorado River Basin Water Scarcity Challenge with the aim of spurring innovative solutions with the potential to be scaled.”

“The Colorado River is facing an unprecedented crisis that requires innovative thinking and investment at an equally historic scale,” said Morgan Snyder, Senior Program Officer, Walton Family Foundation Environment Program. “Projects like these that move past outdated systems and instead find new ways to conserve, adapt, and become more resilient are essential to ensure a sustainable water supply for the millions who depend on the river. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the organizations driving this critical work.”

Comments from Organizations with Selected Projects
“Watershed Management Group has been working towards a hydro-local future, where we value and steward our local water resources in the Tucson area instead of depleting distant watersheds, like the Colorado River,” said Lisa Shipek, Executive Director of Watershed Management Group. “Water conservation and groundwater recharge strategies are proven to work in the greater Tucson area, however there is a real need to develop innovative funding/finance solutions at scale in sensitive groundwater areas, especially for people without access to conservation programs.”

“As western water becomes increasingly scarce, it’s critical that we don’t leave the environment in the dust. Colorado Water Trust is proud to be working with Quantified Ventures to strategize putting the environment on equal footing with other important sectors, such as agriculture, industry, municipalities, and tribes, when it comes to acquiring water,” said Kate Ryan, Director of Programs for the Colorado Water Trust.

About Quantified Ventures
Quantified Ventures works with pioneering organizations to design, capitalize, and scale investible solutions that improve the wellbeing of people and the planet. We catalyze impact for the greater good by pulling the levers of data, finance, innovation, partnerships, and policy to construct bold solutions that produce verified outcomes to address the most pressing environmental and social challenges facing communities. Quantified Ventures is a certified B Corporation and operates two synergistic groups: Environment and Resilience and Health and Human Services.

About Gates Family Foundation
Gates Family Foundation works with partners and communities to build a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable Colorado for all. The family foundation has over 75 years of investing in the people, communities, and natural resources of Colorado. By being place-focused, Gates Family Foundation can take a long-term view in facilitating solutions, develop deep and trusted relationships with communities, and always work for the best interests of the state.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2019, the foundation awarded more than $525 million in grants in support of these initiatives.