Improving Instream Flows for Fish and Water Supply Reliability for Landowners

No matter where you live or how you get your water in the Navarro Watershed, there are things you can do to improve the reliability of water for you and your community, as well as the health of our streams and wild salmon runs – and the Navarro Partnership has the solutions and tools to help you do it.

The Navarro Partnership

Mendocino County Resource Conservation District

The Nature Conservancy

Trout Unlimited

Our Goals

  • To work collaboratively with landowners, businesses and farms to improve instream flows for salmon and steelhead while increasing water supply reliability
  • Provide information to support voluntary improvements in water management practices
  • Support the development of flow enhancement projects including water storage, groundwater infiltration, habitat restoration and coordinated stream diversions.

Our Endangered Water Supplies

It is the nature of our California climate that there is always more water available during the winter when it rains and less water available during the summer when we have months of dry weather.

Our water use, however, follows an opposite pattern. In the Navarro we use 82% of our water during the summer. Taking water when stream levels are naturally low threatens water supplies for both people and salmon. With such strong demand during the least water-abundant time, drinking and irrigation water can run out, and rivers can dry up, destroying salmon and steelhead habitat.

The problem is timing: Water is severely limited when we need it in the summer and fall. And this situation is only intensifying due to climate change, which is increasing temperatures and the frequency and intensity of droughts.

There is good news: Throughout the course of a year, there is enough water overall to meet the water needs of people, farms and fish in the Navarro River watershed. In fact, on average, farms and homes use only about 1% of the total water runoff. So, to improve water security for people and fish, we must reduce reliance on summer diversions and meet more of our water supply needs using water stored during winter and spring.

What You Can Do

Solutions to ensure water for farms, communities and fish:
  • Water Storage: Store wet season water for use in drier months to reduce your need to take water from the river in the summer – specific options include: diverting stream water or rainwater capture during the wet season and storing in ponds or tanks.
  • Coordinated Timing of Diversions: Coordinate with others in your community when each of you take summer water from the river to reduce the number of users taking at once
  • Water Conservation: Reduce your summer water demand through water conservation, specifically irrigation efficiency
  • Groundwater Storage: Improve your property soil conditions such that water can filter into the ground more easily, replenishing groundwater supply for use during summer months

Collaborative Water Management

It takes a community to heal a watershed and provide water for fish and people

The water challenges facing communities in the Navarro River watershed are the result of many things: historic land use practices, on-going development and hundreds of streamflow diversions which have left little water in the summer and fall to meet the needs of people, farms and fish.

There is no silver-bullet or single project solution for our streams. It has been near death by hundreds of cuts and it will be life by dozens of projects.

The only recipe for success is one where landowners work together to do whatever they can – no matter how large or small – to reduce reliance on summer diversions, store water from the wet season and increase groundwater infiltration.  Recognizing the need to work together, we developed what we are calling Collaborative Water Management – a watershed approach incentivizing individual water users to collectively and voluntarily implement projects and management efforts to improve their water-supply reliability and instream flows for fish.

Learn more about Collaborative Water Management in this Guidebook from the Nature Conservancy Salmonid Restoration Federation and Alford Environmental.

Want an example? Check out the Mill Creek Collaborative Water Management Plan.

How does it work?

Based on similar landowner-led efforts in the Mattole and South Fork Eel watersheds, the Collaborative Water Management framework starts by working with groups of landowners in tributaries to the mainstem rivers who share in the health and wealth of water resources. With information provided below and with support from the Navarro Partnership, landowners assess their water needs, options for projects to improve the reliability of their water supplies and explore opportunities to work with neighbors on projects.  Whether on their own or working with others, the benefits of collaborating at a watershed scale are worth exploring:


  • Community based / stakeholder-driven
  • Improved water-supply reliability
  • Drought and climate change resilience
  • Secured water rights
  • Cost savings
  • Increased access to public funding
  • Permit streamlining and compliance
  • Enhance property values

Collaborative Water Management Guide Book

Mill Creek Collaborative Water Management Plan


SRCD-Slow it Spread it Sink it Store it-Brochure_English

SRCD-Slow it Spread it Sink it Store it-Brochure_ Spanish

Sanctuary Forest- Water Stewardship Guide Booklet Form MCRCD

Sanctuary Forest- Land Stewardship Guide Booklet Form_MCRCD

A Guide to CA Water Rights: Trout Unlimited (final – web)

Funding  provided by the California Wildlife Conservation Board