Colorado River Coalition
Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation and its grantees in the Colorado River region needed state water regulators, regional public utility commissioners and other leaders in state and municipal governments to find sustainable policy solutions to address the chronic water issues in the river’s sprawling watershed. National grantees including Environmental Defense Fund and American Rivers joined with regional groups to form the Coalition and called on Spitfire to help them solve this challenge.
First, we needed members of the Coalition to agree on a definition of victory. To ensure lasting change, the groups wanted state and federal regulators to adopt a new philosophy of resilience to guide their management decisions. This would require the coalition to organize a long-term campaign to transform regulatory policy.
Spitfire worked with the Coalition to develop a timeline of activities and mark milestones it would use to measure progress along the way. We then zeroed in on an influence strategy focused on cultivating the Colorado River Water Conservation District as a champion for resilience-focused water policy. Given the political sway of farmers and ranchers in the region, we also needed to enlist agricultural interests as allies.
Spitfire knew the federal Bureau of Reclamation at the Department of the Interior was about to release a major study of the Colorado River Basin’s mismatch between water supply and demand. Spitfire helped the Coalition develop a communication strategy to leverage the report by spotlighting resilient, sustainable solutions and sparing conversations with regulators. This strategy featured a message platform that pointed to the benefits of the Coalition’s resilient “modern water management” approach over expensive, outdated pipelines and dams. Through a series of events and earned media activities, the Coalition promoted the report’s findings, emphasizing the diversity of voices calling for change in each state and pushing back against ill-conceived opposition proposals. Resulting media coverage in the region opened doors to conversations with in-state regulators and set the stage for a sustained, collaborative campaign to build strategic relationships with regulators and advocate for common sense solutions.