Evaluating Conserved Consumptive Use on High-Elevation Pastures in the Upper Colorado Basin

Project Overview

The overall goal of the project is to work with local water users (Grand County, CO) on field-based research to address priority feasibility questions related to temporary reductions in water use, including:

  • best practices for reducing irrigation on perennial irrigated pastures
  • estimating and verifying actual water savings from those practices
  • working with producers to identify multi-year strategies to create conserved consumptive use (CU) while maintaining viable agricultural operations. Two ATM grants have been awarded for this project. 

The first grant (Phase I) was awarded to implement the first year of the project, including: contracting with and compensating local producers to participate in the study, establishing reference and treatment fields, installing research equipment, implementing reduced irrigation practices (i.e., full-season and partial-season dry up), beginning first year data gathering and measurements, and first year comprehensive reporting.  The second ATM grant (Phase II) was awarded to evaluate how treatment fields recover once returned to normal irrigation, including continued data collection on water use, forage yield and quality, and agricultural economics through 2023. 


  • Perry E. Cabot, Extension Professor, Colorado Water Center, CSU Extension, CSU AES
  • Aaron Derwingson, Water Projects Director, The Nature Conservancy
  • Matt Bromley, Research Scientist, Desert Research Institute
  • Alfonso Torres-Rua, Associate, Professor, Civil and Env. Engineering, Utah State University
  • Larry Hipps, Professor, Plants, Soils, & Climate (PSC), Utah State University
  • Hannah Holm, Associate Director for Policy, Southwest Region, American Rivers
  • Mely Whiting, Legal Counsel, Trout Unlimited
  • Martin Schroeder, Senior Researcher (Eddy Covariance), Utah State University
  • Paul Bruchez, Colorado River Basin Roundtable, Colorado Water Conservation Board



This project is supported with funding from The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, American Rivers and the Colorado Water Conservation Board Alternative Transfer Methods (ATM) program.