Our Priorities: Healthy Rivers in Agricultural Landscapes

Farms, ranches, and rangelands occupy 44% of US land, consume 80% of available water supply, and contribute to pollution of our waterways. Members of our network want skills to engage farmers and ranchers to build trust and foster innovation to improve the health of rivers within agricultural landscapes. River Network forges partnerships between local groups and farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural stakeholders, accelerating learning at the intersection of water and agriculture, leveraging financial resources and technical aid, and promoting policy solutions that protect clean and healthy rivers. Through these efforts, we strengthen the capacity of place-based coalitions and local groups to ensure that productive agriculture and healthy rivers co-exist side by side.

Below, learn about River Network’s work related to the intersection of water and agriculture, and connect with our staff working on these topics.

Completed SMPs are noted in orange; those in green are in-progress.
Completed SMPs are noted in orange; those in green are in-progress.

In Colorado, River Network is at the forefront of working in rural communities to advance initiatives to protect and improve rivers. Our work supporting Stream Management Planning has launched community-led projects in almost a dozen locations to conduct data-driven assessments of river health that prioritize protecting or enhancing watersheds’ environmental and recreational assets.  Since 2017, local coalitions have received almost $8 million in new funding to understand the condition of their rivers and pursue ideas to protect and restore them for the future generations.

Read the latest from our staff and partners on our agriculture work and what’s happening across the network:

Involving Agriculture in River Health in Colorado

Sharing Success Stories in Partnership with Colorado Ag Water Alliance

Much of River Network’s coalition building in Colorado is done in partnership with Conservation Districts or other agriculture-focused organizations. We are bringing them into a conversation about environmental flows, fish habitat, and riverside land protection, often for the first time. In this video, we profile our work building capacity within agriculture organizations as they explore their roles in protecting and restoring rivers.

Watch on YouTube


River Network and the Colorado Ag Water Alliance teamed up for a series of videos, profiling projects that are a win-win for both agriculture and river health, from ditch restoration to post-flood rebuilding.

Telling the story that productive agricultural lands can exist side by side with healthy rivers is critical to overcoming historic us-versus-them thinking.

Watch at COAgWater.org

What We’re Working On Now

  • Defining River Network’s Path Forward on Agriculture: In 2020 we invited members of our network to share how they currently work with farmers and ranchers and what their challenges and needs are. Now, we’re building from these findings to help us define our niche and determine how to best bring value to the network. Watch this recording from River Rally 2021 to learn more or download our plan here.
  • Expanding Access to Irrigation Improvement Projects: We secured funding to hire, and are now working with, new positions placed in agriculture organizations in two river basins in northwest and southwest Colorado. These new positions will help move irrigation improvement projects from good ideas to practical successes.
  • Leading the Stream Management Plan Peer Learning Network: This group brings together SMP practitioners and supporting organizations, providing an interactive space for ongoing exchange of information, collective problem solving, and development of innovative approaches to best accomplish SMP goals.