Project Active:


Willow Creek – Rio Colorado

The first approved Water Conservation Program (Senate Bill 13-19) in the State of Colorado.

Through 2022, over

million gallons


of water has been restored to Willow Creek and the Colorado River.

What makes Willow Creek a River in Need?:

Owners of the irrigation ditch water rights worked in partnership with Colorado Water Trust to create a plan to boost streamflow and maintain the fishery in times of need.

Tools Used:

Water Conservation Program (As the first use of this tool under Senate Bill 13-19, the program allows two irrigation ditches to cease diversions during low flow conditions for up to 5 years in any 10 year period without penalty to their water rights.)

Project Partners:

Cottonwood Confluence, LLC, Bonneville Environmental Foundation

Project Years:

This project was implemented in 2016 and 2021.

Project Story: 

This project, the first use of a Water Conservation Program created under Senate Bill 13-19, conserves flows and protects the fishery in Willow Creek and the Colorado River by ceasing diversions at two irrigation ditches during certain low flow conditions. Senate Bill 13-19 allows operation of the Water Conservation Program for up to 5 years in any 10 year period.

The Colorado Water Trust worked with the owners of the irrigation ditch water rights to develop the Water Conservation Program, and then submitted the Program to the Colorado River Water Conservation District (“River District”) for approval, as required by the statute. The River District approved the Program on June 11, 2015. In mid to late summer when upstream senior water rights are diverting, flows in Willow Creek decrease and these irrigation water rights could completely dewater Willow Creek in dry years. Under this Water Conservation Program, the water rights can be left in the river to benefit streamflow.

In July of 2016, when flows in the lower reaches of Willow Creek dropped to near 7 cfs, Rio Colorado implemented the plan for the first time, and that water was returned to Willow Creek to boost streamflow and protect and maintain the fishery.


  • Photo Credit: Geoff Elliot, Grand Environmental Services
Use the flow dashboard below to learn about the operations of the Rio Colorado / Willow Creek project, and just how much water has been restored to Willow Creek over the project’s lifetime. Just click or hover over the graphs below to learn more!

If you have trouble seeing the graphs below, click here