Instream Water Transfers

RRI’s Instream Water Transfers Project

Creating New Conservation Tools for Freshwater: RRI’s Instream Water Transfers Project

Water is the West’s most precious resource– and growing urban and agricultural demand will continue to constrain environmental freshwater supply for the foreseeable future.

Yet there is an opportunity ready to be put in the people’s hands. Since water rights can be bought, sold, leased, or donated separate from the land that they’re attached to in most Western states, RRI believes that water rights holders should be able to donate some or all of their water to stay instream for environmental purposes— and earn a tax deduction because of it.

RRI is leading two major initiatives towards this goal of bringing—and keeping—more water instream in western states:

I. Secure IRS income tax deductions for voluntary instream water rights donations.

In late 2012, the Coalition is formally requesting the IRS to issue a binding Revenue Ruling regarding the tax deductibility of permanent donations of appropriative water rights.

At the same time, the Coalition has found water rights holders who are willing to be the first “test cases” to go through the process of donating all or some of their water rights. This conservation tax precedent will be a significant milestone for instream flow.

RRI and its Coalition partners have received support from U.S. Senators, regional water and land trusts, western state water and natural resource agencies, and private landowners.

II. Create the first-ever California Water Trust Network (CWTN).

RRI and charter co-partner American Rivers are working to create the first-ever California Water Trust Network to address inconsistent state and federal water transfer policies with the goal of increasing instream flows through voluntary water transfers – including acquisition, lease, and donations. The CWTN already includes over a dozen water transfers organizations and land trusts who are now coordinating at the state level for the first time.

The result of both of these efforts will be tremendous new tools for freshwater conservation, benefitting water rights holders and leading to healthier streams, creeks, and rivers for the fish, wildlife, and humans that rely on them.

Contact: Tom Hicks, Project Director. thicks@rri.org

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