Fraser River

Near Winter Park, CO

PROJECT PARTNER: Colorado Water Trust, Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Winter Park Ranch Water and Sanitation District
PROJECT TYPE: Water Management Agreements

The amount of water flowing in Colorado’s Fraser River has long been a topic of concern. The river flows through a popular ski town and provides recreation and irrigation benefits to thousands of residents and tourists. However, during summer, the legal rights to divert water from the Fraser River diminish flows to a point that water quality, recreation and trout fisheries are compromised—and stream flows frequently fall below the minimum levels considered necessary to support fish and wildlife.

In 2013, BEF’s Water Restoration Certificate® program supported a collaborative solution led by the Colorado Water Trust and Winter Park Ranch Water and Sanitation District to augment stream flows in St. Louis Creek and the Fraser River.

With funding provided by BEF’s Water Restoration Certificate® program and other partners, the Colorado Water Trust initiated a water leasing agreement to help boost local stream flows in St. Louis Creek and the Fraser River at a time when a significant portion of the river’s water is either diverted to the Denver metro area or used for irrigation in the Fraser River valley. Winter Park Ranch agreed to curtail their water diversions just in time to supplement St. Louis Creek and the Fraser River as high summer temperatures and dwindling snowpack typically cause flows to drop. The project allows Winter Park Ranch to restore flows and protect them in the river during low flow conditions in select years over a ten-year period. In 2013, the project succeeded in restoring over 25 million gallons of water to the lower end of St. Louis Creek, adding cold, clean water to the Fraser.

With some estimates indicating that over 60% of the water in the Fraser River is diverted before the river and its tributaries even make it down from the high mountains into the Fraser River Valley—where fishing, recreation, and farming rely on the remaining flows—project partners decided it was time that they step up and showcase local solutions that could add life to their home river.

*This resource has been reviewed and found to meet the BEF Flow Program Certification Criteria for Evaluating Proposals to Secure Environmental Flows by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.