In Water and agriculture

Collaborating for Agriculture & Water

River Network staff have been busy over the past couple of years expanding the work within the key issue Healthy Rivers in Agricultural Landscapes. 

Defining a Path Forward

In July 2021 we shared what we learned from conversations with water protectors around the country to learn how they work with agriculture on river health initiatives and how we can help them. Those conversations have also informed the creation of our five-year workplan, available here, which focuses on creating connections, supporting groups to leverage agricultural funding sources and promoting policy solutions that advance equity and resilience. 

Developing Resources to Leverage Funding Sources

There’s a wide variety of federal sources for agricultural conservation related to water, and we’ve started to learn more ourselves and share out some basics on what these sources are for and who is eligible to receive this funding.

Engaging in Policy Solutions

Every five years, the Farm Bill comes up for reauthorization and we’re starting to work with partners like the Clean Water for All Coalition and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to advocate for healthy waters as part of this critical and wide-ranging legislation. At the state level, we’re looking to showcase progressive state policies in areas like soil, health, on our State Policy Hub 

Five Years of Stream Management Plan Support

Here in Colorado, we’ve continued to work with coalitions on Stream Management Plans (SMPs) around the state. Over the past five years of doing this work we’ve seen groups make significant impacts on their local watersheds. Since 2018 over $8 million in funding has been invested in SMPs and 269 projects to improve and protect local rivers have been identified and recommended. You can read the full report about the impacts of this program here.

Modernizing Irrigation Infrastructure with Local Producers 

In 2020 our Colorado staff, in partnership with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance, launched the Colorado Irrigation Infrastructure Coordination Initiative Pilot Program. Recognizing the important stewardship role of agricultural producers, we work with the Mancos Conservation District and Community Ag Alliance to provide project “life-cycle” services to ditch companies and private irrigators, to develop modernization strategies and navigate the complex process of securing funding for project development and implementation. This work wouldn’t be possible without the local Project Coordinators who work hand-in-hand with irrigators in their basin. 

Sharing Success

We’re also helping farmers and ranchers who have been a part of their local SMPs tell their stories. Mad Agriculture, which works with agricultural producers across the country on regenerative agriculture strategies, featured the importance of involving producers in river health planning initiatives (read more on page 16). The Fence Post published a similar story about how agricultural producers and environmentalists are working together to protect and improve their local watersheds.  


All this work strives to increase knowledge, helps producers and communities leverage financial resources and technical aid, and promotes policy solutions that support healthy rivers in agricultural landscapes. In these ways, River Network strengthens the capacity of our network to forge partnerships with agricultural stakeholders and support approaches to ensure that productive agriculture and healthy rivers co-exist side by side.  

To stay up to date on this work, bookmark our webpage dedicated to Healthy Rivers in Agricultural Landscapes. This page houses resources, information on current projects our team is working on, interviews with members of our network working in this space, and more.

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