The Value of Lived Experience in Environmental Flow Assessments: Overview of the Grand Valley Pilot Project

Brian Murphy1*, Hannah Holm2

1River Network, Boulder, CO, USA
2American Rivers, Grand Junction, CO, USA


The Grand Valley’s River Corridor Initiative (RCI) is partnering with River Network and American Rivers to conduct an interactive stakeholder analysis that results in a description of relationships between flows and attributes of value. The Grand Valley’s River Corridor extends from De Beque, Colorado to the Utah state line; it also encompasses the Gunnison River from Bridgeport to the confluence with the Colorado River. The River Corridor is the lifeblood of the community and is a vital economic, cultural, and ecological resource that supports the Grand Valley’s wellbeing and prosperity.

American Rivers and River Network hosted a series of three facilitated stakeholder workshops in the Grand Valley to identify attributes of value and detriments linked to the timing, duration, frequency, and magnitude of flows in the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers. Stakeholders from the following types of user groups were included: irrigation districts, recreation , municipal, environmental/conservation. This process asks stakeholders to describe how flows positively or negatively impact attributes they care about at times throughout the year. For example, when the river is above a certain threshold, park infrastructure is at risk, and when the river is very low, sediment can block flows to diversion structures. This information on lived experience is paired with a flow analysis that quantifies flow rates at various times of year under low, medium, and high runoff years.

This presentation will highlight the stakeholder engagement process and the coupled flow analysis to provide a way to develop more understanding among stakeholders and compliment scientific flow needs assessment. Presenters will also discuss outcomes and the novel relationship to environmental flow assessments, and key takeaways from the workshops.