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SWM Fellowship Program: Field Studies

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Washington State Water Transactions Field Trip
Washington State has one of the most successful and longest-running water-transactions communities in the American West, making it ideal for field study. In March 2016 the SWM group met with environmental water-market practitioners, irrigatio- district operators, nonprofit leaders, and water-law professionals during the weeklong investigation of market-based water management. Though most western states have very different climates, politics, demographics and economies, there were many lessons to be learned and perspective to be gained from the creative approaches and integrated solutions being implemented across Washington.

Verde River Field Trip
"The Verde River is Arizona's only federally designated Wild and Scenic River. It is a critical flyway for migratory birds, Arizona farmers depend on it for irrigation, and it feeds several Arizona communities downstream. Over the past several years, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has worked with farmers, municipalities, and other environmental groups to restore twenty miles of once-dry stretches of the river between Camp Verde and Phoenix. In May 2015 TNC hosted the SWM group on a field trip on the Verde River, where SWM students visited TNC's restoration sites, learned about forbearance agreements and water transfers that have secured water for in-stream flows, and interacted with stakeholders who have been involved in the restoration process. The Verde River is an interesting case study: despite a lack of adjudication, conjunctive management, or legal protections for in-stream flows, TNC has been able to work with irrigators to restore reaches of the river that were previously dry."

Colorado River Delta Pulse Flow Field Trip
During the week of March 23, 2014, the SWM team again visited the Colorado River delta. They witnessed the release of the pulse flow, following the leading edge of the water as the river slowly refilled its natural corridor. They also took a boat from the Sea of Cortez up the serpentine channels of the delta.

Colorado River Delta Restoration Field Trip
Thanks to Minute 319, a landmark political agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, in May 2014, the Colorado River reached the ocean for the first time in decades. Under the agreement, Mexico, which lacks water storage facilities, can now store its allocation of the Colorado River in Lake Mead. At the same time, the U.S. funded the lining Mexican irrigation channels, making irrigation more efficient. Environmental groups, such as EDF, Sonoran Institute, and Pronatura worked with Mexican farmers to purchase excess irrigation water for Colorado River delta restoration. On March 23, 2014, the gates of the Morelos Dam opened, and instead of being diverted into a series irrigation canals, the mighty Colorado flowed down its original course toward the Gulf of California. Minute 319 benefited all involved stakeholders. Not only has the pulse flow helped to restore natural delta ecosystem and create sanctuaries for migrating birds, but it has also replenished depleted groundwater tables and flushed salt build‐ up from soils. The pulse, which mimics spring floods from snowmelt, is vital to helping young trees take root.