Our Approach

Similar to a land trust that works with landowners to protect natural ecological habitat, Colorado Water Trust serves as a facilitator for water rights owners who want to use some or all of their water to benefit rivers and streams.

Our team of expert water lawyers and water resource specialists works in partnership with water rights owners to restore water to rivers while protecting water rights and livelihoods.

leadville creek

Leases & Loans

Water Rights Short-Term Lease

Short-term leases and loans allow the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to use a lessee’s water in 5-of-10 years to restore streamflows. A lease or loan requires a relatively quick administrative process instead of lengthy water court approval. In a given year, these can be activated upon mutual agreement or by a low-streamflow trigger.

Water Rights Long-Term Lease

Long-term leases and loans allow the CWCB to use a lessee’s water right for an agreed-upon term to restore streamflows. They typically require an addition of instream flow use to the decree, may require full-year or partial-year separation of the water from the land, acceptance by CWCB, and water court approval. Leases or loans can be very flexible to accommodate the needs of the water user.

Water Sharing Agreements

Private agreements between the water owner and Colorado Water Trust can be implemented to restore streamflows. These typically include non-diversion agreements and strategically timed reservoir releases for water users to share their water with the environment.

Water Conservation Program

Legislation originally passed in 2013 now allows water right owners to reduce their water use for 5 years in a 10-year period without penalty to their water rights. Sometimes, that reduction of use can have restorative benefits to rivers.

reservoir release

Reservoir Releases

Colorado’s many reservoirs work to store abundant snowmelt runoff in the spring and early summer to release it when farmers or cities need it later in the year. Colorado Water Trust leases or purchases stored water to be released to boost flows for healthy habitat. Oftentimes these releases benefit the environment and recreation before being reused by farmers or cities downstream.

Blue River

Permanent Projects

Water Rights Sale or Donation

A sale or donation is a permanent transfer of a water right to Instream Flow use. It may require full year or partial year separation of the water from the land, acceptance by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and water court approval. Donations may be tax deductible (consult your attorney).

Infrastructure Improvements

River infrastructure, such as dams and diversions, often cause low flows and/or hinder fish passage. Colorado Water Trust works with ditch owners and engineering consultants to improve or replace old river infrastructure to keep rivers healthy.

cool carpenter

Visionary Solutions

Working within Colorado’s water system is complex and there are many different tools available to water users to achieve their goals. Many of these tools have not yet been applied to environmental flows and Colorado Water Trust is constantly working to pioneer tools that were originally created to withdraw water from rivers to benefit the environment. Innovative tools like instream flow augmentation not only have the potential to improve river habitat but also expand the ways flows can be protected in the future.

Learn About Colorado Water Trust’s Water Sharing Tools

Interested in finding out if your water can help?

Inquire through our confidential and non-committal Request for Water Process. 

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