Linking Water Efficiency and Instream Flows:

Project Summary


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November 2011

The final project report is available for download, click here.

October 2011

The project report is being finalized and will be posted in a few weeks.  Please see the Project Report Summary for a review of the project's conclusions.

May 2011

Here’s the latest update on this one-year project to explore the links between water efficiency and instream flow in the Colorado River basin, undertaken by the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and its two project partners, American Rivers and the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), and funded by The Walton Family Foundation. We are now starting the project’s final phase, to assess what may be possible in the Colorado River basin states.

Municipal Water Efficiency Programs:

What is possible and practical in water efficiency programs? As part of this project we are documenting successful municipal water efficiency programs. Click here for a draft summary of more than a dozen successful municipal water efficiency programs nationwide, regardless of their motivation for undertaking a program.

State Water Efficiency Requirements:

Any link between water efficiency programs and improved instream flows is set in the context of state water efficiency initiatives, policies and requirements. Click here for an overview of state water efficiency policies and regulations in the seven Colorado river basin states.

Case Studies:

We explored the practical experience of over 40 communities in the western US in linking water efficiency and instream flow protection, ranging from individual on-farm water efficiency measures to major city-wide conservation programs and large-scale agricultural district efficiencies. We focused on several that we feel shed the most light on this link, and best illustrate the range of possibilities. Below are draft case studies (more will be posted soon):

Cedar River, WA
Deschutes River Basin, OR
Grand Valley, Colorado River, CO
Manastash Creek, Yakima River Basin, WA
North Fork Blackfoot River, MT 

March 2011

Here’s an update on this one-year project to explore the links between water efficiency and instream flow in the Colorado River basin, undertaken by the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and its two project partners, American Rivers and the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), and funded by The Walton Family Foundation.

Case Studies:

To assess practice experience in the western US linking water efficiency and instream flow protection, we explored over 40 specific candidate cases in the western US.  These range from individual on-farm water efficiency measures to major city-wide conservation programs and large-scale agricultural district efficiencies.  Of these, we are focusing on several that we feel shed the most light on this link, and best  illustrate the range of possibilities. We opted for cases with demonstrable results, rather than models and policies that are as yet untested.  Click here for the full list of experience we considered.

Legal Assessment:

As part of the legal assessment for this project , we have compiled brief state summaries of the intersection of the law surrounding instream flow rights with that of conserved water in each state of the Colorado River basin.  Click on the name of the state for an individual summary of each: ArizonaCaliforniaColoradoNevadaNew MexicoUtah, and Wyoming.

October 2010

The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and its two project partners, American Rivers and the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), have begun a one-year project funded by the Walton Family Foundation to explore the links between water efficiency and instream flow in the Colorado River basin.  We will identify the barriers and opportunities to the use of conserved water (urban and agricultural) for instream purposes, drawing from practical experiences in states around the West and applying these experiences to the unique characteristics of the states of the Colorado River basin.

In the Colorado River basin, with ever-expanding demands for multiple water uses and increasingly insufficient supply, improved water efficiency can -- in concept -- help stretch water supplies and help protect aquatic environments.  In the past two years, diverse groups have called for innovative solutions to address the conflicting demands for multiple water uses, including instream flows. 

Through this project, we intend to:  assess what is practically possible in the application of conserved water to instream purposes in Colorado River basin states; highlight specific innovative and successful working models and proposals from elsewhere; suggest a few promising areas for testing innovative approaches in the Colorado River basin; and inform state, municipal, agricultural and nonprofit water policy makers in the Colorado River basin of the project’s findings. 

We anticipate using this webpage as part of this project’s outreach. By Spring, 2011 we will be posting background research and highlights of innovative efforts, and we plan to post and make generally available a project report by July 2011.

For more information on AWE's partner organizations, follow these links:

  -Environment Law Institute's Western Water Program Webpage 

  -American Rivers Project Webpage 


For further information, contact AWE Project Manager Cindy Dyballa at cindy@a4we.org.