The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) operates several grant programs, some of which require Roundtable approval and others which do not. The Water Supply Reserve Fund Grant Program (WSRF) consists of money set aside to complete basin projects in accordance with the Basin Implementation Plan (BIP) and Colorado Water Plan (CWP). It is this grant program that requires Roundtable approval of an application. However, there are two subsidiary pots of money in this program – the Basin Account and the Statewide Account.
The Basin Account is overseen by the Roundtable. Applications requesting funding from this account will also be reviewed by CWCB, but only to confirm that the Threshold Criteria are met. The Threshold Criteria essentially consist of that the applicant is an appropriate entity, that the application helps meet BIP and CWP needs, that the application was approved by the appropriate Roundtable, and that the required percent match is met or waived.
The Statewide Account is overseen by CWCB, but still requires Roundtable approval. Because it funds projects across the state, it is more competitive and has more stringent Evaluation Criteria (link). Projects may also seek funding from both accounts, particularly if their budget exceeds what the Basin Account can accommodate.
Statewide vs. Basin:
What’s the difference?
The Statewide and Basin Accounts are two pots of money for the same grant, and both require Roundtable approval. However, the Statewide Account grants are only approved two times a year, and grantees compete with others across the state.
In addition to the WSRF Program, the CWCB administers eleven other granting programs with different focuses, ranging from environment- or agriculture-specific to the broad Colorado’s Water Plan Grants Program. The CWCB also offers low-interest loans to agricultural, municipal, and commercial borrowers to help complete water projects. More information about these grant programs can be found here.
Types of Projects
The Roundtable funds all sorts of projects, provided they further the Basin Implementation Plan objectives. Some common examples are irrigation infrastructure rehabilitation projects, conservation easements, river restoration work, and environmental education. Visit our projects page to see what we’ve funded in the past, and contact the Roundtable Executive Committee to see if your project is a good fit for our program.
Grant Application Process
Applying for a WSRF grant is a somewhat lengthy process due to the approval needed from the Roundtable, and should not be undertaken lightly. Applicants will be responsible for educating themselves on Roundtable and CWCB requirements and requesting time on the Roundtable agenda. There are roughly four steps to the application process:
Step 1: Project Development
Once a preliminary idea for a project is developed, contact a Roundtable Executive Committee Member to discuss the proposal idea. The Committee will serve as a resource to the applicant as they develop their proposal and will provide feedback on the viability of the project, its fit with WSRF parameters, project timing, partners, budget, etc. The applicant should review the Executive Summary or full Rio Grande Basin Implementation Plan to learn about the work of the RGBRT, the Basin’s priorities, past projects, and future opportunities. Once the proposal idea is fleshed out, the applicant may submit a draft project sheet to the Executive Committee for review and feedback.
Step 2: Preliminary Presentation
At least four months before the application is intended to be submitted, the applicant will present their proposal idea to the Roundtable at a regular monthly meeting to receive feedback. This preview will include:
- A refined project sheet, due to the Chair no later than one week before Roundtable meeting
- A detailed project overview presentation, with plan and budget, to the Roundtable
- Adequate information for members to ask questions and review the project and to provide applicant with feedback
Step 3: Final Presentation
After the preliminary presentation, the applicant will incorporate any feedback and amend the proposal. Then, at the next monthly meeting, the applicant will deliver a final presentation, after which the Roundtable will vote whether or not to approve the project. This presentation will include:
- Fully prepared WSRF application, due to the Chair no later than one week before Roundtable meeting
- Detailed scope of work, project benefits, budget, timeline, and answers to any questions raised at the preview
- Draft letter of support for Chair (samples available for applicant’s use)
If approved, the applicant will then submit their completed application (word and excel format) and the signed RGBRT Chair’s letter to the CWCB Liaison, Sam Stein, who will prepare an application summary and present the proposal to CWCB.
Step 4: CWCB Review and Approval
The CWCB reviews WSRF proposals at their bimonthly board meetings – see the timeline below for the appropriate month. The applicant should plan to attend the board meeting to answer questions about the proposal. If approved, contracting with CWCB can take up to 45-60 days. The applicant will not be reimbursed for funds spent on a project before a contract is in place and they have received a Notice to Proceed.
The Roundtable asks that applicants present a report to the Roundtable once a project is complete, as well as if the project changes during implementation.
Projects requesting only Basin Account funds are reviewed at CWCB meetings throughout the year, and do not have a specific deadline. Projects requesting funds from both accounts or just the Statewide Account are only reviewed at the March and September board meetings. The graphic below describes the two possible timelines for these projects.
Reviewed at March CWCB Meeting
Reviewed at September CWCB Meeting
Basin Implementation Plan Goals
All applications to the WSRF Program should seek to assist in meeting the BIP and CWP goals. Both plans can be read in full at the links below, but for your reference, here are the five BIP goals:
- Healthy watersheds that provide critical ecosystem services, are resilient to disturbances, and benefit from ongoing efforts to protect water sources, improve water quality, enhance aquatic, riparian, wetland, and upland habitat, and maintain connected ecosystems.
- Aquifers with sustainable supplies of groundwater for farmers and ranchers, towns, and wildlife habitat.
- Vibrant and resilient agriculture, recreation, municipal, and industrial economies that support thriving communities.
- Water administration that is adaptive, flexible, and creative while complying with state statutes and the doctrine of prior appropriation, and fully utilizing Colorado’s compact entitlements under the Rio Grande and Costilla Creek compacts.
- Engaged and informed citizens who understand the scope and urgency of local, state, and regional water issues and participate in robust and diverse educational opportunities.
Protect, preserve, and/or restore the sustainability of the Rio Grande Basin watersheds by focusing on watershed health and ecosystem function.
Protect and preserve the doctrine of prior appropriation and vested water rights, and fully utilize Colorado’s compact entitlements as specified under the Rio Grande and Costilla Creek compacts.
Sustain the confined and unconfined aquifers in accordance with Senate Bill 04-222 and operate within the State Engineer’s new Rules and Regulations for the San Luis Valley.
Operate, maintain, rehabilitate, and create necessary infrastructure to meet the Basin’s long-term water needs, including storage.
Manage water use to sustain optimal agricultural economy throughout the Basin’s communities.
Support the development of projects and methods that have multiple benefits for agricultural, municipal and industrial, and environmental and recreational water needs.
Meet new demands for water, to the extent practicable, without impacting existing water rights and compact obligations.
Establish a long-term education and outreach effort for water use and needs in the San Luis Valley/Rio Grande Basin.
Make progress toward meeting applicable water quality standards throughout the Basin.
Promote water management and administrative practices that are adaptive, flexible, and responsive to optimize multiple benefits.
Protect, preserve, and enhance terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitats throughout the Basin.
Conserve, restore, and maintain wetlands and riparian areas for the benefit of a healthy watershed.
Work to sustain active river flows throughout the year in cooperation with water users and administrators to restore and sustain ecological function of the rivers and floodplain habitats within the context of existing water rights and compact obligations.
Maintain and enhance water-dependent recreational activities.