SMP Progress: 2016 – 2021

Stream Management Plans (SMPs) are a priority in Colorado’s 2015 Water Plan, which calls for 80% of locally-prioritized streams to have a SMP by 2030. In 2021, River Network and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) compiled the accomplishments of the first five years of the SMP program, along with recommendations for the next five years.


Read a summary of the report


Read the full report


Appendix A

SMP Outcome Tracking Tool: Background & Results


Appendix B

River Health Assessment Framework & Variables, By SMP

Help us spread the word! Contact River Network to arrange a presentation to your Basin Roundtable, watershed coalition, or other local gathering. Are you interested in starting a SMP? Visit the SMP Nuts & Bolts page to find out how to get started, and contact River Network about possible technical or facilitation support.

Celebrating Results

Through SMPs, coalitions of river users and advocates are building better knowledge of their river’s condition, expanding the number of people involved in decision-making, developing expertise in river science, hydrology and recreation management and implementing good ideas to protect and improve rivers.
  • Colorado’s HUC-8 watersheds with at least one active SMP 26% 26%
  • Recommended projects and strategies that have yet to be started 68% 68%
  • Recommended projects and strategies that are upgrades or modifications of agricultural practices 19% 19%
  • Recommended projects and strategies that are flow projects 7% 7%
  • SMPs that found existing river condition data to be adequate to fully assess their river’s health 10% 10%

Million dollars invested in SMPs

SMPs completed or in-process

Recommended projects and strategies from completed SMPs

SMP Project Recommendations by Project Type

Number of Project Recommendations and Status by Completed SMP

$8 Million in Funding

CWCB grants, at 55% of total funding, and matching local cash and in-kind resources (45%), have invested just over $8 million in SMP-guided efforts during 2016-2021 funding cycles. The large increase in SMP numbers and budgets in 2018 coincide with River Network’s efforts to grow SMP activity (although River Network is not the only statewide NGO supporting SMP development).


Colorado’s community-based coalitions rely on others’ SMPs as examples and integrate information learned from others. As each coalition customizes its approach, innovation occurs, improving stakeholder engagement, river health assessments, and development/implementation of projects.

Conservation Gains

River Network asked SMP coalitions to report post-project conservation gains consistent with metrics set by the RESTORE Colorado grant program. Most groups were challenged to “backtrack” and provide this data, revealing the importance of standardizing metrics in advance.  Two SMPs reported the following:

Yampa River

3,000 acre feet of water leased, one fish passage barrier rectified, and 10 acres of streambank restored to reconnect floodplain and/or reestablish native riparian vegetation.

Upper Colorado River

0.9 miles of stream geomorphology restored to increase aquatic species habitat; 1.9 miles of streambank restored to reestablish native riparian vegetation; 0.5 miles of fencing installed to exclude livestock and protect riparian habitat; and 22 substrate, 10 macro, and 10 temperature monitoring sites added.

Knowledge and Capacity Gains

Coalitions report that SMP processes have deepened their knowledge of their communities through enhanced relationships with stakeholders and understanding of community values, new opportunities to work toward solutions, insights into complex issues of water use and environmental health, and new perspectives on water management.

Understanding the complexities and nuances of our river and water transit system, especially through engagement and participation of new/less involved stakeholders, has really developed our understanding of the river system, its history and establishment, and how it has come to be what it is.

Yampa River Basin

Data and Methodology Gains

Project leads report that SMPs have resulted in better data access, use, and application for decision-making, noting an increase in use of varying types of data, greater accessibility due to data sharing, more holistic (vs. siloed) review of data, better identification of data gaps, and deeper understanding of the data and how stakeholders can best use it.

Water quality is something that unites all community members: clean water is beneficial for everyone and has opened doors to speak with skeptics. River assessments provide the opportunity to work with individual landowners along the river corridor, to talk about possible improvements by reach. To be able to explain what is currently happening within a watershed and what the future might hold with climate, project or flow changes has made the greatest impact, and allowed deep conversations about what the future holds for water and flows in the river.

Mancos River

Community Building and Participation Gains

SMPs are as much about people and communities as they are about the functional health of the river; as such, community and stakeholder buy-in is critical to success. Many SMPs report increased diversity of involved interests, extending beyond just environmental and recreational interests.

Additionally, SMP leaders report an increase in communities’ focus on river ecosystem science and/or flows, with stakeholders becoming more fluent in ecosystem science, engaging broad-based discussions that transcend singular issues, utilizing SMP-derived data to inform other planning efforts, and taking initiative to identify and seek solutions to river and infrastructure issues.

Local residents and staff from City of Alamosa are more aware, educated, and interested in the Rio Grande’s ecology, water quality, and flow patterns. Awareness among agricultural and municipal stakeholders has increased as a result of involvement in the river health assessment review process, and water-sharing agreements – such as the Conejos River Flow Program – are more widely understood as a result of the SMP process

Rio Grande

Colorado SMP Library