Colorado River Basin and Greater Southwest

A vision for unlimited clean water
Last year we restored 467 miles of rivers and streams.

With your support, we can continue to implement streambank stabilization solutions, erosion control, and riparian plantings. Be a part of the next mile.



For far too long, the Colorado River has been overused and overworked. Despite this year’s epic winter, the system’s largest reservoirs are still less than a third full, while 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. 
Between the nihilistic headlines and doomsday predictions for the Colorado River, TU offers a different perspective: optimism. Across the Colorado River Basin and greater Southwest, we set ourselves apart through the rigor and expertise required for our field projects to better watersheds, conservation, wildlife – and even humans, too!  
We’re optimistic because we serve as trusted local experts in the communities where we reside, regardless of whether they are conservative, liberal, rural, or urban.

Illustration of water and reads Restore Our Water, Colorado River Basin


Across Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southwest Wyoming


in federal project funding for the Colorado River Basin


water, wetland, and habitat restoration projects


full-time staff


members and volunteers


local chapters


Although not a complete list, the map is representative of the places we have projects and campaigns across the Colorado River Basin and greater Southwest. Our staff often live and work in these same communities, allowing us to have a more hands-on approach to conservation.

Project funding is made available through myriad ways, ranging from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, state conservation trusts, private landowners and water rights holders, TU memberships, corporate partners, and philanthropic foundations.

Green areas outline national forest boundaries


Colorado River Basin Drought
With multiple federal funding opportunities made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, TU is ramping up the number of projects we have across the entire region to meet the challenges posed by our increasingly drier climate. 
Windy Gap Connectivity Channel
Championed for years by TU, the project received the final funding needed in 2022 – $33 million in total – to build a natural stream channel around the Windy Gap Reservoir, reconnecting the Colorado River and reducing the dam’s impacts on the river’s aquatic species and habitat for dozens of miles.   
Upper Weber River Watershed
Restoration in the upper Weber River Watershed is a continual effort and often includes building beaver dam analogs (BDAs) – essentially man-made beaver dams – to trap sediment and rebuild degraded or incised streambeds. In 2023–2025, TU and our partners will construct up to 2000 BDAs on headwaters streams. The efforts are planned at 17 locations and are expected to cover 9 miles of stream. 
Upper Green River Basin
TU has focused on improving fisheries habitat in the Upper Green River watershed for over a decade. We have partnered with private, state, and federal agencies to restore and reconnect native trout habitat across the Basin. Current projects include improving irrigation infrastructure and river restoration for improved fish passage on over 60 miles of stream, constructing BDAs on over 30 miles of tributaries to restore riparian and wetland habitat in arid landscapes and facilitate water conservation projects. 
Corporate Partnerships
We work with a number of corporate partners in the region to build water infrastructure improvements along the Colorado River Basin and offset/replenish the water volume required by their manufacturing processes.
Irrigation Efficiency Improvements
We work with water rights owners such as ranchers and farmers to study their irrigation water systems and implement multi-year plans and infrastructure upgrades to improve their resiliency and reduce water usage amid dire drought conditions. 
Apache Trout Restoration
Through a signed cooperative management plan, TU has supported the decades-long, admirable efforts of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to restore Arizona’s native fish populations and expand its habitat back to its historical boundaries. In August 2022, the efforts of these groups led to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommending the trout be delisted from the Endangered Species Act


Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument
For years, TU has worked alongside local 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 April 2023, TU applauded 11 local Tribal Nations in calling upon the Biden Administration to make this area a national monument. And, in August 2023, President Biden formally designated this area as our nation’s newest national monument. Learn more
Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund
One of TU’s top priorities in New Mexico over the past few years, the Fund will create a permanent, $100 million funding source for conservation and habitat restoration programs. Passed into law in 2023, it will also help New Mexico restore natural fire regimes, foster healthier rivers, support regenerative agriculture, and develop the state’s outdoor recreation potential. Learn more
Upper Rio Grande Initiative
With more than two decades of experience working in the Rio Grande basin, TU has formed multiple partnerships to protect and restore the watershed’s most critical landscapes and coldwater ecosystems. Along with other significant milestones, we played an important role in the designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and the restoration of Rio Grande cutthroat trout in the Sand Creek and Rio Costilla watersheds. We also continue to reinforce stewardship practices that have served the Rio Grande’s Tribal and rural communities for untold generations.
Colorado Gold
Supporting the state’s premier trout fisheries, the TU-led Colorado Gold Medal Waters coalition is working to build more awareness around these cherished watersheds and will be advocating for specific policy measures to better them in the state legislature in the coming years. Learn more
Western Oil and Gas Policy
For the past decade, TU has led the call for significant reforms to the oil and gas leasing process across our Western public lands. In 2022, as part of landmark climate legislation, Congress acted for the first time in decades to modernize the outdated federal oil and gas leasing/permitting processes on our public lands and included TU’s priorities to reduce impacts to fish and wildlife, protect water resources, and affirm America’s commitment to public lands management. This year, we are calling on the Bureau of Land Management to adopt these changes formally through their rulemaking processes.  Learn more
Uinta Basin Railway
A new rail line in Utah would result in heated rail cars filled with waxy crude traveling along the Colorado River and through some of region’s most vulnerable landscapes. While Trout Unlimited does not oppose oil and gas development, the federal permitting processes to date have largely ignored impacts to Colorado to the potential detriment of the river 40 million people rely upon.  


The Colorado River watershed is the lifeblood of the West. With increasing demands and dire drought, TU’s conservation projects can help by storing as much moisture as possible in the soil – which by extension creates better fish and wildlife habitat – so it’s available downstream during the hottest months of the year. Without this type of work, annual runoff can degrade streambeds and allow creeks and streams to run dry by summertime.

New Water Cycle Colorado River Basin


When TU signs on as project manager on a stream reconnection or habitat restoration project, we essentially “quarterback” the project from concept to stewardship while working with a team of partners, funders, landowners, water users, contractors, and volunteers along the way. This “anatomy of a project” timeline provides an overview of what goes into each distinct phase of a project’s lifecycle—and demonstrates how, with your support, TU acts as a catalyst to advance projects to completion and ensure their success.


Currently, the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada have agreed on a proposal to reduce water use by 3 million acre-feet of water over the next three years across the Lower Basin of the Colorado River. Although this is a major step forward to restore our water, we must continue to identify opportunities to help the watershed that 40 million people, our agricultural industry, seven states, two countries, and 30 Tribal Nations rely upon for drinking water and electricity.

The map below shows areas reliant upon water from the Colorado River Basin (outlined in black), the main stretch of the Colorado River and its tributaries (light blue and purple), every dam in the basin (blue square), and every town with a population of over 10,000 people (red dots).

Information in the map above has been compiled from from federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and other entities who have made their respective ArcGIS layers available through the platform. Trout Unlimited therefore does not maintain or control the data highlighted in this map and it should be used for representative purposes only.


In 2022, the U.S. Forest Service made projections about what Western waters would like by the end of the century. Water temperature is an important factor in determining the health, abundance, and persistence of cold-water fish species such as salmon and trout. As stream temperatures warm, dissolved oxygen levels decline, causing these species to experience increased physiological stress, slower growth rates, and higher susceptibility to environmental toxins, parasites, pathogens, predators, and competitors. Use the magnifying glass to compare the historical and end-of-century time periods.

Swipe map viewer to compare stream temperatures (°F) between historical (1993–2011, left) and end-of-century (2070–2099, right) time periods; drag the magnifying glass to compare time periods.


Although warmer and drier landscapes suggest long-term declines in iconic cold-water species, each species consists of numerous individual populations and some of those occupy habitats that will be resistant to changes according to the U.S. Forest Service. That being said, cutthroat trout habitat is projected to shrink under current warming scenarios. Use the slider to compare the historical and end-of-century time periods.

Swipe map viewer to compare probability of cutthroat trout occupancy between historical (1970–1999, left) and end-of-century (2070–2099, right) time periods; drag the vertical swiper to compare time periods.

A vision for unlimited clean water
Last year we restored 467 miles of rivers and streams.

With your support, we can continue to implement streambank stabilization solutions, erosion control, and riparian plantings. Be a part of the next mile.