Walton Family Foundation: Protecting Freshwater

The Brief:

The Walton Family Foundation’s Freshwater Conservation Initiative has invested more

than $80 million in the Colorado and Mississippi River Basins to protect the health and resilience of the people and the wildlife dependent on these resources. Along the Mississippi River, the Foundation wants to reduce and eliminate an anoxic “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that is more than 5,500 square miles, or the size of the state of Connecticut. Caused by fertilizer and nutrient pollution from farm and urban run-off, and deadly to fish and wildlife, the Dead Zone also destroys economies such as fisheries that depend on natural systems. The Foundation wanted to know what impact its investments had had in helping farmers reduce their use of chemical fertilizers and in increasing private and federal restoration efforts.


The Colorado River Basin represented another challenge. Water resources there were shared among multiple jurisdictions and urban and rural water users. Facing historic droughts and growing demand, the old rules were no longer working. The 36 million people who depend on the Colorado River for their water supply faced a new world of scarcity. The Walton Family Foundation invested over $17 million in efforts to help the two nations and seven states that rely on Colorado River water design a system that would work into the future. The Foundation wanted to know how its efforts were helping these decision-makers redefine and manage water rights and access.


The Solution:

pfc implemented a multi-pronged developmental evaluation process to gather insights, lessons, and recommendations. We talked to farmers and ranchers, grantees, other stakeholders, and foundation staff to understand the results of the foundation’s investments. We recommended steps to develop leadership capacity among target communities, to increase partnership with other stakeholders partners, and to refine success metrics.