Permanent solutions for streamflow restoration

We often talk about our flow restoration projects that use short-term solutions such as purchases and leases of water, like our projects on the Yampa and Colorado Rivers. But did you know that we also have five projects that have permanently transferred water to rivers through the state’s Instream Flow Program.

An example of one of our permanent projects is on the Alamosa River near Capulin, Colorado.

A dry Alamosa River in winter
The Alamosa River in late winter when the project is no longer running. By Tony LaGreca
A flowing Alamosa River in 2018.
A flowing Alamosa River in spring of 2018.
By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0

Before our project, the Alamosa River would be dry downstream of Gunbarrel Road from the end of irrigation season (Oct 31) until spring runoff.

In 2008, Alamosa Riverkeeper, a local nonprofit that had been working to support the river after it had been affected by low flows and contamination, reached out to Colorado Water Trust to plan out flow restoration for the river. We provided guidance and technical assistance so that the community could secure water rights to get the river flowing.

Alamosa Riverkeeper used mitigation funding to purchase water rights diverted from the river and donated the water for permanent enrollment in the State’s Instream Flow Program. Every year, the water rights are stored in Terrace Reservoir and released in November to keep the Alamosa River flowing.

Since its implementation in 2014, the Alamosa River project has restored over 3,800 acre-feet of water to the river, keeping the river connected for fish and wildlife, improving riparian habitat, and helping to recharge aquifers.

This project, the first of its kind on the Alamosa River, was the result of more than a decade of successful collaboration between Alamosa Riverkeeper, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Colorado Water Trust.

Read more about the Alamosa River project.

Our other permanent projects are on Washington Gulch, Hat Creek, Hermosa Creek, Boulder Creek, and the Blue River.