Shaping the future of the West by informing land use and natural resources policy.

Within the Colorado River basin, the combination of over allocated water systems, rapid population growth, and increasing uncertainty in the face of climate change requires the development of new tools and policies for both land use and water resource planners. We take pioneering approaches in research, collaborative community planning, capacity building, and policy making to improve land and water planning in the region.

We work to ensure that water resources meet the demands of people and nature, where healthy watersheds and prosperous communities thrive across the Colorado River basin. We envision cities and towns, farmers and ranchers, and industry and conservation organizations working collaboratively to use land efficiently and conserve water as communities grow.

Our work is comprised of basin-wide activities as well as local work in the upper- and lower-basins. Collaborative local efforts will inform policy and actions at the state, regional, and federal level, helping to scale successful solutions across the entire basin.

Our 5 strategies:

  1. Growing Water Smart workshops help communities and local governments realize watershed health and community resilience goals
  2. Provide research to encourage more sustainable, water efficient development
  3. Build leadership to foster policies that protect water for people and nature at all levels of governance
  4. Develop a common set of basin-wide performance metrics to inform best practices as conditions evolve
  5. Share lessons learned, case studies and best policies and practices to increase awareness and activity at all levels of government within the basin and beyond

The Resilient Communities and Watersheds (RCW) Program is a joint program of the Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. This partnership is mutually beneficial, combining the Sonoran Institute’s hands-on, community-focused approach with the Lincoln Institute’s land policy and fiscal expertise, creating a powerful force to improve communities in the North American West.

Visit for more info, resources and case studies.

Help us prepare communities to adapt to our changing environment


Learn more:

Resilient Communities Starter Kit
Read more – Resources to Embrace Change
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