The epicenter of the ongoing western drought is the Colorado River Basin. (Joshua Duplechian/Trout Unlimited)
Colorado River Basin
For far too long, the Colorado River has been overused and overworked. The system’s largest reservoirs are chronically short of water, and the basin faces threats to its environmental, economic, and cultural values. With so much at stake for the future of the Colorado River, many are trying to understand how we got to this point and what we can do to help restore our water supplies. Between nihilistic headlines and doomsday predictions, Trout Unlimited offers a different perspective: a dose of optimism. Across the Colorado River Basin and Greater Southwest, we set ourselves apart with rigor and expertise as we work on restoration projects that help improve rivers and watersheds and the fish, wildlife, and communities that depend on them.
Agriculture production on the upper Colorado River. (Joshua Duplechian/Trout Unlimited)
Fishing on the Colorado River at Lees Ferry is as iconic as it gets. (Joshua Duplechian/Trout Unlimited)
The upper Colorado River near Kremmling, CO. (Joshua Deplechian/Trout Unlimited)
Green River. (Joshua Duplechian/Trout Unlimited)
Colorado River Basin Drought Response
With multiple federal funding opportunities made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, we are ramping up the number of projects we have across the entire region to meet the challenges posed by our increasingly drier climate.
Upper Green River Basin
In the Upper Green watershed, a priority for more than a decade, we are partnering with private landowners and state and federal agencies to restore and reconnect native trout waters. We are building beaver dam analogues on more than 30 miles of tributaries, upgrading road stream crossings, and improving irrigation infrastructure. This work is allowing fish to access an additional 60 miles of stream habitat, restore riparian and wetland habitat in arid landscapes, and facilitating water conservation.
Windy Gap Connectivity Channel
Championed by TU for years, the project received the final funding needed in 2022 – $33 million – to build a natural stream channel around Windy Gap Reservoir. The work will reconnect this section of the Colorado River and create a healthy ecosystem for fish and other aquatic species across dozens of river miles. The project will also create a mile of publicly accessible Gold Medal water for those who fish.
Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument
For years, TU worked alongside tribes, communities, and elected officials to protect 1.1-million-acres of land directly adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park. The region is home to 500 abandoned uranium mines, and federal agencies have found traces of uranium far from their original sources due to the complex underground water table and interconnected watershed of the Colorado River. In August 2023, President Biden named this area a national monument.
The TU-led Colorado Gold Medal Waters coalition is building awareness of the state’s premier wild and native trout fisheries and advocating for policymakers to take steps to protect them.