Our Mission

The Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, a center of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, seeks to advance the integration of land and water management to meet the current and future water needs of Colorado River Basin communities, economies, and the environment. We help communities to effectively manage their land and water resources.

Spheres of Focus

Our current work spans three spheres of focus, with another planned for the future.

Growing Communities

Growing cities, suburbs, and edge and rural communities alike are confronting unpredictable climate conditions and water availability and seeking ways to address an uncertain future. We work with communities to address these complex challenges of population and economic growth by helping boost local capacity, reach consensus, and implement meaningful policies and practical solutions.

Irrigated Agriculture

In an era of uncertain water availability, innovative and collaborative solutions are essential to optimize adaptive irrigated agriculture in the Colorado River Basin. Local cultures and economies and the national food supply depend on it. How those solutions take shape impact not just the West, but the entire United States.

Tribal Communities

The 30 Native American tribes in the Colorado River Basin hold 15 percent of the land and more than 25 percent of the Colorado River water allocation. However, tribal communities have historically been excluded from state and basinwide water management decisions. The Babbitt Center supports tribal nations’ efforts to engage in basinwide policy decisions to strengthen their capacity to manage their water resources.

Future Focus: Public Lands Management

Fifty-eight percent of the land in the Colorado River Basin is publicly owned, mostly by the federal government, and its management is critical to water quality and water supply. Looking ahead, the Babbitt Center will begin to integrate this land use into our work and concentrate on the connections between public land management and water.

How We Work

To build capacity in the communities and regions that will shape the future of the Colorado River Basin, we take a four-pronged approach.

1. Research

Communities need timely and accurate information and data to address the unique challenges they face in harnessing opportunities to prepare for an uncertain future. We work with leading researchers across multiple disciplines to generate new insights into major policy and management challenges at the nexus of land and water. We make new knowledge accessible and relevant to decision-makers and practitioners through myriad publications and courses.


Basin Story Maps: Overviews of Conditions and Issues

We dig deep into the details of water in the West to provide visually stunning and succinct information on the issues facing the basin. With more than 250,000 views, our flagship storymap, The Hardest-Working River in the West, and data portal make the science and policy of the Colorado River Basin accessible to a broad audience.

Policy Focus Report: Integrating Land Use and Water Management, Planning, and Practice

Land without water cannot support communities of any scale, yet many land use decisions are made without regard to water, and vice versa. This report introduces readers to best management practices that enable local governments and water providers to integrate the two systems. Supported by case studies from several US communities, the report demonstrates that planning is a crucial step for land and water integration.

Arizona State University: Ongoing Research

We have worked with the Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University on a variety of land use and water management integration projects, which include research on the connection between plans for land use and those for water supply; evaluation of water sustainability indicators; joint execution of the 2019 Urban Water Demand Roundtable and Report, cofunded by the Water Research Foundation; and a systematic survey of planners and water managers from cities and towns across the Colorado Basin states about their views on how integrated water and land use practices relate to water sustainability challenges.

2. Resources

Creating resilience depends on a community’s access to appropriate resources—tools, funding, and applicable processes—to implement next steps and transform conditions and achieve desired outcomes. We provide an array of resources that help communities make effective decisions, galvanize broad-based engagement, employ long-term and comprehensive visioning, and offer access to innovative planning tools.

3. Partnerships

Partnerships link organizations with shared goals and can leverage and contribute new resources. The Babbitt Center invests in innovators and collaborates with vested partners from state, local, and tribal governments, nonprofits, private businesses, academia, and other private foundations. Together, we amplify our collective influence and impact across the Colorado River Basin to connect communities to best practices and valuable resources to advance their work.


Water & Tribes Initiative

Thirty Native American Indian tribes have inhabited the Colorado River Basin region for millennia. They depend on the waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries and are major water rights holders. However, many tribes are unable to access their water rights and have traditionally been excluded from the development of Colorado River policy. The Water & Tribes Initiative (WTI) was founded in 2017 to address these issues. The goals: facilitate connections among tribes and other leaders, build trust and understanding, and create opportunities to explore shared interests and take collaborative action. The Babbitt Center is proud to serve as the founding and managing funder and fiscal agent for the Water & Tribes Initiative (WTI).

4. Education and Dissemination

Outreach, education, and training are essential for communities to understand the nuances of the land-water connection and to make and implement decisions that best secure their water future. We conduct training, develop and publish guidance, and transfer knowledge to research networks and practitioners. We support the next generation of scholars and practitioners through fellowships, internships, and mentoring opportunities. And we disseminate our work in a variety of media.



We will soon work with partners to develop a curated suite of indicators and metrics to benchmark and track both social and physical dimensions of water and land resources across the Colorado River Basin. The forthcoming Indicators for Land and Water Sustainability in the Colorado Basin will comprise an interactive web report unpacking our findings and a companion dashboard website with web maps and other explorations of data and trends. These resources will allow practitioners and general audiences alike to diagnose hot spots, raise productive questions, and draw connections across time and geography.