Joining Forces: Innovative Co-Funding to Enhance Corporate Water Stewardship Impact in the Colorado River Basin
The Colorado River Basin faces critical water supply limitations, threatening the economic, social, and ecological stability of the region. This report explores how leveraging corporate water stewardship spending with existing and emerging funding streams, referred to as co-funding, can increase positive water impact in the Colorado River Basin and beyond. Four blueprints for co-funding are provided, along with case studies of successful co-funding for water projects. The report offers evaluation criteria for selecting co-funding approaches and discusses the challenges associated with these approaches, from relationship development to benefit accounting. Finally, the report provides three recommended actions that corporations can take now to identify and engage in co-funding arrangements for water projects.
While corporate water stewardship alone cannot solve the basin’s vast challenges, it can create meaningful local and watershed-scale impacts. By partnering with various funding mechanisms, such as grants, program-related investments, revolving loan funds, and impact investing, corporations can tackle more complex problems at larger scales.
The intended audience is practitioners—people working within or consulting for companies—who are looking for ways to increase the impact of their corporate water stewardship spending. A secondary audience includes public or philanthropic water funders, water project leads, and policymakers in the Colorado River Basin.
Key Takeaways include:
- The Colorado River Basin requires strategic investments to achieve long-term water supply sustainability.
- Co-funding with existing and emerging funding mechanisms can be a meaningful way for corporations to expand their impacts beyond offsetting water use for specific business practices, providing a pathway to invest in water benefits at new and expanded scales.
- Flexibility in corporate water stewardship spending – as compared to state and federal agencies – can be an asset for unlocking co-funding opportunities.
- Seed funding provided by corporations can help initiate crucial projects in the region.
- Expanding and deepening connections between corporate staff, project proponents, and potential co-funders is essential for successful co-funding.
- Robust measurement and valuation of water benefits and allocation of credit are key for successful co-funded water stewardship projects.
- The current unprecedented level of federal funding for water and environmental projects presents immediate co-funding opportunities for corporations.
The Colorado River Basin’s urgent need for water stewardship investment calls for experimentation and innovation. Co-funding mechanisms offer a promising way for corporations to expand their impact beyond offsetting water use for specific business practices and invest in water benefits at new and expanded scales. By embracing co-funding strategies, corporations can contribute to addressing the pressing water supply challenges facing the Colorado River Basin.