The Babbitt Center promotes innovative land and water conservation practices and policies, catalyzes these solutions at the local level, and nurtures research into integrated land and water management.

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Land use and water management challenges require innovative approaches. The Babbitt Center works closely with governmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and universities to address these challenges. We develop tools and best practices, provide training, conduct research, and facilitate partnerships to guide informed decision making for sustainable management of land and water resources.

Colorado River Basin Map

The Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy produced an updated Colorado River Basin Map in partnership with the Center for Geospatial Solutions. This newly produced map showcases the geography and hydrography of the Colorado River Basin, corrects inconsistencies represented in contemporary maps of the region, and will provide water managers, tribal leaders, educators, and other stakeholders with an updated resource as they confront critical issues related to growth, resource management, and sustainability.

Growing Water Smart

This program is a multi-day workshop that educates, trains, and assists communities to implement effective integration of land and water planning and management. Each workshop’s end goal? A one-year action plan to enhance a community’s ability to be resilient in a hotter and drier future. The Babbitt Center collaborates with the Sonoran Institute, Arizona Community Foundation, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and the Gates Family Foundation, among others, to train, educate, and assist city and town officials, water providers, and land planners.

Enhance Colorado's Water Efficiency Plans

We collaborated with the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment at the University of Colorado Law School to write Best Practices for Implementing Water Conservation and Demand Management Through Land Use Planning Efforts. This document, adopted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board in January 2019, updates the State of Colorado’s water efficiency plan guidance to include land use practices that foster water savings. 

The Hardest Working River in the West: A StoryMap of the Colorado River

Explore the key water sustainability issues in the Colorado River Basin through data and stories. Although not the largest or longest river in the world, the Colorado River connects a rich array of social and ecological communities along its 1,450 mile journey from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to its mouth in the Gulf of California, Mexico.

Incorporating Water into Comprehensive Planning

Municipalities and counties can better deal with water scarcity and other challenges if their comprehensive plan prepares them for these challenges. Using the comprehensive plan to prioritize water resources will help a community support sustainable growth and development. We created a guidance manual on how to effectively create goals and policies within a comprehensive plan that address water issues and foster public support for a more sustainable future.

Land and Water Policy Research Network

We are cultivating a Research Network for Integrated Land and Water Policy and Management—the first of its kind. The cross-cutting network is open to all, regardless of professional memberships and disciplinary affiliations. This network provides a forum for scholars across disciplines who are interested in sharing research, conferences and convenings, as well as funding and collaboration opportunities aimed at improving the integration of land and water policy and management, especially in the Colorado River Basin and Western U.S. Join the Research Network.

Water & Tribes Initiative

With many of the oldest water rights in the Colorado River Basin, 29 tribal nations play a significant role in sustainable water management. The Babbitt Center, the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Montana (CNREP), the Walton Family Foundation, the Ten Tribes Partnership, and many other individuals and groups are striving to enhance tribal capacity on water issues and advance collaborative decision making in the Basin. Read an interview with our partner, Daryl Vigil, about this initiative.

Visit the Water & Tribes Initiative webpage, hosted at CNREP, for WTI publications and more information.

Additional Programs and Projects

Breaking New Ground

The Babbitt Center spurs innovation in technology for land use and water planning.


Credit: Dulcey Lima via Unsplash

No matter the task—from partnering with agencies to develop new tools to writing best practices for water efficiency plans—we understand the importance of innovation in the quest to secure our water future.

High-Resolution Mapping

We collaborate with the Conservation Innovation Center of Maryland’s Chesapeake Conservancy on precise high-resolution mapping, down to one square meter, to model how water moves across the landscape and impacts local and regional land use. This collaboration has resulted in floodplain mapping for green infrastructure for the Pima County Flood Control District in Arizona; regional land use land cover mapping for the Denver Regional Council of Governments in Colorado; an ArcGIS StoryMap, Swimming Upstream, of the Endangered Fish Recovery Program for the Colorado Water Conservation Board; and ecosystem service opportunities near Bears Ears National Monument, Utah, in collaboration with the Grand Canyon Trust. These high-resolution mapping products provide critical information to organizations seeking to identify priorities at the parcel scale, such as green infrastructure placement. This work is invaluable to land and water managers, local planners, and policy makers whose decisions impact the economy and quality of life in their communities.

A New Community Water System Database for the Colorado River Basin

The Babbitt Center and the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center created the first publicly available Colorado Basin-wide database on water provisioning and reuse in fast-growing small- and medium-sized communities. This new dataset showcases the complexity and opportunity that small public and private systems face in meeting the water needs of future growth. Creating the first basin-wide database of water provision and reuse for smaller cities–freely accessible via an ArcHub data portal–helps analysts and practitioners generate questions, find answers, and compare water systems across regions and states to better understand the conditions, trends, and challenges affecting the water futures of these communities.

Trouble in Paradise: Arizona's Distressed Golf Courses

The Babbitt Center catalogued Arizona’s golf courses, detailing information on location, state of operations, relation to nearby homes, and water use to pinpoint courses that are either already distressed or have the potential to become distressed. For golf courses identified as distressed, the Babbitt Center and the impacted community can study best-case scenarios to revitalize or adapt these courses to enhance financial stability, optimize livability, and promote a more sustainable use of valuable land.

Building Bridges

The Babbitt Center collaborates with partners to find solutions to catalyze communities that are resilient.


Credit: Nathan Anderson via Unsplash

The critical connection between land use and water management is our focus. We identify collaborative opportunities to engage developers, planners, and policy-makers in an effort to bolster a focus on community resilience. Why? Because when we maximize community investment and sustainable water use, everyone wins.

Colorado Water and Land Use Planning Alliance

The State of Colorado has convened an alliance of state agencies, local governments, NGOs, and researchers to help achieve a Colorado Water Plan goal: by 2025, 75 percent of Coloradans will live in communities that have incorporated water-saving actions into land use planning. The Babbitt Center provided seed funding for a position within the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to spearhead this group and collaborates with other alliance members.

Elected Officials Education, Outreach, and Assistance

We partner with Western Resource Advocates and WaterNow Alliance to help communities advance land use planning practices by thoughtfully integrating water considerations into the land development process. The project seeks to advance the implementation of integrated water-land use practices and policies by local governments via three methods:

  • Education: Meet with elected officials to understand their needs, and provide educational opportunities and resources to address those needs.
  • Outreach: Raise awareness of the value of integrated planning through workshops, publications, and conference presentations.
  • Assistance: Offer aid in various ways, including reviewing existing plans and policies, drafting new ordinance language, developing stakeholder engagement, and conducting research.

Water, Land, and Growth in Central California

The San Joaquin Valley is one of the fastest growing regions of California and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is likely to have far-reaching implications on how and where the valley's communities grow in the future. The valley's urban, suburban, and rural communities bear the burden of accommodating new growth in the region, yet may not have renewable water supplies to meet future demands. The Babbitt Center works with the Public Policy Institute of California to understand the implication of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on urban, suburban, and rural communities in the San Joaquin Valley.

2019 Journalists Forum

In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and the Arizona State University Cronkite School of Journalism, we hosted a Journalists Forum that explored the history, science, and politics of water management, and delved into innovative policies and practices that help forge a sustainable water future.

Fostering Knowledge

The Babbitt Center spearheads leading-edge research on land use and water management.


Credit: Tom Gainor via Unsplash

Sustainable solutions to the growing challenges of land and water integration rely on new discoveries and the rigorous collection and review of data. Through partnerships with respected institutions and projects overseen by leaders in their field, our work is built on a solid research foundation.

Decision Center for a Desert City – Arizona State University

A variety of land use and water management integration projects with the Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University include research on the connection between land use plans and water supply plans; evaluation of water sustainability indicators; joint execution of the 2019 Urban Water Demand Roundtable and Report, co-funded by the Water Research Foundation; and creation of a Land-Water Indicators Survey.

The Future of Agriculture in the West

The Babbitt Center is developing programs to learn from and work with agricultural regions in several U.S. states that are facing threats to their water supplies, pressures related to urban development, and opportunities to advance conservation and climate change mitigation.

Publications