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Community Agriculture Alliance: Collaborating for agriculture and water

Mikhaela Mullins
River Network
The Yampa River flows through Sarvis Creek State Wildlife Area in June 2021.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Since 1988, River Network has been at the forefront of expanding national interest in protecting the waters of our country, encouraging diversity in the environmental movement, and helping engaged community members and local organizations take a stand for their waters.

In the Yampa Valley, River Network is providing leadership and management for the Yampa Integrated Water Management Plan, a project of the Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable.

Defining a path forward

In July 2021 River Network shared what was learned from conversations with water protectors around the country to learn how they work with agriculture on river health initiatives and how to best help them.



Those conversations have also informed the creation of a five-year work plan, available online at RiverNetwork.org. This report focuses on creating connections, supporting groups to leverage agricultural funding sources, and promoting policy solutions that advance equity and resilience.

There are a wide variety of federal sources for agricultural conservation related to water. As we’ve started to learn more, River Network and others are working to share the basics on what these sources are for and who is eligible to receive this funding.



Engaging in solutions

Every five years, the Farm Bill comes up for reauthorization and River Network has begun 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 are looking to highlight progressive state policies in areas like soil health.

Here in Colorado, River Network continues to work with coalitions on Stream Management Plans (SMPs) around the state. Over the past five years many groups are making 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.

Modernizing irrigation infrastructure with local producers

In 2020 River Network staff in Colorado, 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, River Network is partnering with the Mancos Conservation District and Community Agriculture Alliance (here in the Yampa Valley) 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 is being done by local Ag Water Coordinators, who know their communities needs and have relationships with local ag producers. Local knowledge, expertise and the ability to work hand-in-hand with irrigators is critical to the project’s success.

All this work strives to increase knowledge, help producers and communities leverage financial resources and technical aid, and promote 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. You can learn more at RiverNetwork.org and about the Yampa Integrated Water Management Plan at YampaWhiteGreen.com/iwmp.

The Community Agriculture Alliance is dedicated to preserving agriculture in the Yampa Valley by initiating and supporting programs and policies that benefit and connect producers, consumers and the community. For more about the alliance, go to CommunityAgAlliance.org.


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