Freshwater Conservation

Ensuring healthy and resilient communities of both wildlife and people

The Walton Family Foundation’s freshwater initiative focuses on sustaining healthy and resilient communities of both wildlife and people in two of our country’s most important river systems.

Through collaborations with local stakeholders in the Colorado and Mississippi River Basins, we seek to find ways to preserve the environmental health of the rivers that benefit the communities and businesses that surround them. 

Colorado River

Through our work in the Colorado River Basin -- which includes all or part of seven U.S. states -- we partner with conservation and recreation organizations, businesses, land owners and local governments to find ways to improve and restore the Colorado River so it can remain an economic and ecological backbone for the region. Our grant making supports organizations that are striving to preserve healthy river flows and restore riverside lands to ensure that the Colorado River can sustain the plants, animals and people that depend on it.

Mississippi River

Our work in the Mississippi valley focuses on improving water quality, riverside lands and infrastructure. We collaborate with local farmers to find win-win approaches to reduce agriculture’s impacts on water quality and wildlife habitats. Other projects seek to implement ecosystem restoration approaches that create jobs and revitalize the region’s economy.

See a full list of our freshwater conservation grantees >

Investment Strategies

In the Colorado and Mississippi River Basins, our conservation work is focused on promoting four key components of a healthy river system:

  1. Preserving healthy river flows that provide a sustainable water source for local communities and a livable habitat for wildlife;
  2. Ensuring safe and healthy water quality for people and wildlife alike;
  3. Restoring land along rivers that can serve as sanctuary for plants and animals and recreation areas for local residents; and
  4. Designing structures such as dams and levees in a way that both serves communities of people and minimizes impacts to rivers and wildlife.


The foundation measures grantee progress by using a number of ecological, social and economic indicators. We track on-the-ground progress using a variety of qualitative and quantitative metrics including: 

  • River flow improvements in Colorado River tributaries;
  • Reduced runoff from farmland in the Upper Mississippi watershed; and
  • Riverside habitat protected or undergoing restoration in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.

See the complete 5-year strategy for our freshwater initiative >

Grantee Spotlight
How Iowa Farmers are Increasing Profits while Protecting the Environment

The Iowa Soybean Association is working to reduce nutrient runoff to protect local rivers and prevent pollution in the Mississippi River Basin.  

Read more