Dolores River Water Right – Protecting Water for Fish and Wildlife!

Rob Harris“Permanent protection of the Dolores River will help these important native fishes thrive for generations to come.”

–Rob Harris, Staff Attorney

Dolores River Anchors a Desert Oasis

The Dolores River cuts a deep channel through Colorado’s red rock sandstone canyon country. The river anchors a remote desert oasis that is renowned for its rich colors, verdant foliage, and plentiful recreation opportunities. It is also a refuge for three native fishes that are struggling to survive.

The Dolores River Needs Dedicated Water to Support Fish and Wildlife

Without water dedicated to staying instream in the Dolores, these native fishes could be in danger and require protective action under the federal Endangered Species Act. This is why a state instream water rights program is important. Instream water rights help keep water in a river or lake. These rights dedicate minimum water flows between specific points to preserve or improve the natural environment. These can be used to protect fisheries, waterfowl, frogs and salamanders, unique geologic or hydrologic features, and habitat for threatened or endangered fish. The rights can be monitored and enforced, thereby ensuring long-term protection of the river’s natural environment.

Western Resource Advocates Leads Legal Efforts to Secure Dedicated Water

Western Resource Advocates’ efforts to protect the Dolores River build upon our past successful efforts in helping our state, federal, and conservation partners protect the San Miguel River. The San Miguel River is one of the last relatively free-flowing rivers in the state and it feeds this reach of the Dolores River, thereby helping to maintain a healthy environment for native fishes in the Dolores as well. Western Resource Advocates leads legal efforts before the Colorado Water Board to secure dedicated instream flows for the environment. We have funded scientific research on the needs of some native fishes in the Dolores and San Miguel Rivers, ensured the state water board has important scientific information when making decisions, and used our legal expertise on instream water rights issues to champion protections.

Other Resources

Learn more about protecting the San Miguel River


Project Staff

Robert Harris

Senior Staff Attorney