Breath of Clarity

Evaluating Water Funds as Conservation Tools

River funds are effective considering additional money is needed to tend to the impact of droughts that rivers are facing out west. The Colorado River Conservation program funds voluntary reductions, such as installing more efficient irrigation systems, in water use (Postel 2014). That said, the water funds support sustainable infrastructure which enhances the power of the dollars being devoted to the cause. Given that freshwater resources contain the upstream-downstream connection linking water to its relatively wealthy urban users, water funds are effective conservation tools. Water funds leverage the unique opportunity to benefit from the people who are dependent on the longevity of the resource and are willing to pay for sustaining it.

Additionally, given the biological characteristics of freshwater resources in terms of wildlife, water funds would be effective at preserving fish populations. For example, human impoundments influence the spatial dynamics of its dissolved organic matter (DOM) which significantly alters the flow of the Klamath River running through California and Oregon (Oliver et al 2016). Research identified a strong negative relationship between DOM and ecosystem function by using strategy such as photo-degradation, complexation, sorption, microbial processing, and mineralization (Oliver et al 2016). The salmon suffer consequence due to inconsistency in regards to nutrient cultivation and transport (Oliver et al 2016). A 5-year monitoring program sampling the river’s water across 212 KM revealed Ceratomyxa shasta is a parasite as a vicious pathogen of Chinook salmon. The river’s flow is not as strong in the presence of the parasite due to infection (Hallett et al 2012). As a result, in 1999, the Klamath River was declared a coho salmon critical habitat (O’Dea 2013). A substantial amount of funding is needed to carry out the science such as this that is needed to bring attention to the issue.

That said, water funds bring the potential to both improve drinking water supply and address endangered and threatened wildlife problems.


Postel, Sandra. 2014. “An Innovative Conservation Fund for the Colorado River.” National Geographic Newsroom. Accessed Nov. 5, 2019.

O’Dea, Elise. 2013. “A Salmon’s Travels: The Forest Service’s Struggle to Secure Proper Environmental Protection”. Ecology Law Quarterly. 40 (20). pp: 565-572.

Oliver, Alison, Robert G. M. Spencer, Michael L. Deas, Randy A. Dahlgren. 2016. “Impact of Seasonality and Anthropogenic Impoundments on Dissolved Organic Matter Dynamics in the Klamath River (Oregon/California USA)”. Geophysical Research: Biosciences. 121 (7). pp: 1946-1958.

Comment by Becca Mccullough:
Hi Mary! Great post! I like your focus on the degradation of freshwater ecosystems and how water funds help to improve water quality and research on the impacts of dams and impoundments. Chinook salmon seem to be taking the brunt of dam usage in many areas. While fish ladders are many times touted as the way around depleting populations of salmon due to additions of dams, it appears they are not really working in the Snake River and Columbia River Basin. “Though these dams have fish ladders and other bypass systems, that doesn’t make them safe for salmon. Depending on environmental conditions, these dams may claim 50 percentLinks to an external site. of Chinook smolts as they migrate to the sea” (Guy 2016). Additionally, because the dams are depleting the salmon population so much, Southern Resident Orca Whales pods are dying off as their food supply dwindles. While the intention of the dams are good, they are clearly having an negative impact chain reaction in this area. The Snake River Funds (SFR) aims to educate and protect this ecosystem through donations and projects like the Spread Creek Fish Passage Project. SFR contributions “support educational programs for kids, protect/restore fisheries, enhance public access, promote safer boating culture, prevent aquatic invasive species, campaign for Snake River headwaters and more” (Snake River Fund 2018)


Guy, Allison. 2016. Dams Are Wiping Out Chinook Salmon — And Decimating Killer Whales. August 22,2016. to an external site.

Snake River Fund. 2018. Stewardship – Snake River Fund.