Non-Profit Seeks Water for Environmental Benefits

Colorado Water Trust will lease water to protect streams again in 2013

With Colorado’s snowpack below average, the Colorado Water Trust (CWT) is again seeking water rights for short-term lease for environmental benefits.  In 2012, the Colorado Water Trust piloted its Request for Water 2012 water leasing program, partnering with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), other state and federal agencies, and Colorado water users to negotiate four unprecedented short-term water leases utilizing a 2003 Colorado state statute.

“When we launched the Request for Water 2012 pilot program, asking water users to lease water in a way that had never been tried, we didn’t know exactly what to expect,” said Amy Beatie, executive director of the Colorado Water Trust. “Because the will and the way existed, we were able to add flow to over 190 river and stream miles in Colorado in record time.”

After successfully leasing water for streamflows in 2012, CWT hired an independent contractor, the OMNI Institute, to audit the pilot program. CWT was offered 94 water rights for lease located in six of Colorado’s seven water divisions. Thirteen water rights passed a rigorous engineering review, and ultimately, CWT packaged 6 water rights into four water leases in the 2012 water season.

“We’re starting earlier this year,” said Beatie. “We knew, and the audit confirmed, that people needed more time to consider whether or not they might lease their water. And now, we can communicate clearly with water users about water leasing because we have experience with the process.” The CWT staff has also been in close communication with partners at the CWCB about improving the program.

“The CWCB is looking forward to partnering on short-term leases with the CWT and water users this year,” said Linda Bassi, Chief of the CWCB’s Stream and Lake Protection Section. “The leased water provides significant benefits to Colorado’s streams and the public.” The short-term leases are authorized under the CWCB’s Instream Flow Program and supplement decreed instream flow water rights held by the CWCB to preserve the natural environment to a reasonable degree. The benefits provided by the leased water can extend beyond the reaches of those water rights, such as on the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs.

To help water users and water practitioners better understand the Request for Water program, CWT is working with basin round tables, water districts, land trusts, and other entities and organizations to schedule presentations about the program. CWT will also host two webinars about the Request for Water program: Friday March 22 at 1:00pm and Monday, April 22 at 1:00pm. Details will be available on CWT’s Request for Water 2013 webpage at This year, people interested in leasing water will have more information and examples from the pilot program to look to for guidance.

“We found working with the CWT on the lease of water from Stagecoach Reservoir to be professional, detailed, and collaborative,” said Kevin McBride, general manager for Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District. “They also provided prompt payment.” The Upper Yampa Board was fully supportive of leasing 4,000 acre-feet from Stagecoach Reservoir to meet multiple needs in their basin. “The water provided a multitude of benefits to Yampa River water users.”

Released at a rate of 26 cfs for 76 days, water leased from Stagecoach Reservoir helped the Yampa River and the local environment survive a dry year. The release incidentally increased the number of days people could raft and fish, thereby helping the local economy at the same time.

Upper Yampa had water available to lease, they were willing to pilot the program, and they know that the Yampa is an important part of their community. CWT is seeking mutually beneficial, collaborative relationships, like the one it built with Upper Yampa, to continue rewatering streams in places where people care deeply about their rivers.

“Through the Request for Water pilot program, we developed more than just a drought strategy. Water leasing is a new tool for moving water back into rivers,” said Beatie. “We’re excited to, again, offer water users another option for how they may use their water this year. Lease your water for instream flows, and grow a crop of fish habitat.” CWT is asking water right owners to offer water for lease before May 3rd this year. The Colorado Water Trust was formed in 2001 to restore flow to streams because many Colorado rivers and streams go dry in even average and wet years. The CWT team is committed to benefitting both the Colorado community and Colorado’s rivers and streams.

The Colorado Water Trust is a private, nonprofit organization that engages in and supports voluntary efforts to restore and protect streamflows in Colorado to sustain healthy aquatic ecosystems. These efforts include water acquisitions, other creative transfers of water, on-the-ground physical solutions, and providing technical assistance to land trusts.  More information about the Colorado Water Trust is available at

The Colorado Water Conservation Board, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources, was created in 1937 to provide policy direction on water issues. Governed by a 15-member board, the CWCB’s responsibilities range from protecting Colorado’s streams and lakes to water conservation, flood mitigation, watershed protection, stream restoration, drought planning, water supply planning and water project financing. The CWCB administers the Colorado’s Instream Flow Program and is the only entity in the state authorized to hold instream flow water rights. More information about the Colorado Water Conservation Board is available at


Filed Under: AgricultureBusinesscommunityEconomy


About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.