Our People

Aaron Derwingson

Water Projects Director, Colorado River Program

Salida, CO

Aaron Derwingson headshot.

Aaron Derwingson Aaron Derwingson, Colorado River Agricultural Outreach Coordinator © The Nature Conservancy

Areas of Expertise

River conservation, agricultural water use, partnership building, water policy, social science


Aaron Derwingson


Aaron’s experience in water and his passion for river conservation goes back to years spent guiding raft trips on the Klamath, Sacramento and other rivers throughout the western U.S. After completing a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning at the University of Oregon, Aaron moved to Colorado, where he served as the stewardship director for the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust. In this role, Aaron helped protect working agricultural lands, wildlife habitat and water resources along the mighty Rio Grande and its tributaries. After receiving a second, more hands-on education in irrigation water use from the farmers and ranchers along the Rio Grande, Aaron joined The Nature Conservancy in 2012 on a two-year fellowship to build relationships with agricultural producers and test new approaches to water management in the Colorado River Basin.

Now as the Water Projects Director for TNC’s Colorado River Program, Aaron continues to focus on building partnerships and creating pragmatic, solution-oriented approaches to freshwater challenges that deliver benefits for agriculture, communities and the health of the rivers that we all rely on. In his time at TNC, Aaron has piloted water banking and other tools for flexible water management, conducted field research on the agronomic and environmental impacts of reduced irrigation, evaluated alternative low-water-use crops and upgraded irrigation water use to help improve river flows.

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Publications, Press and Other Info

Ripple Effect: A podcast putting water in context. Evaluating Conserved Consumptive Use in the Upper Colorado

Agriculture accounts for most of Colorado’s water use. How much water savings is possible on high-country hay meadows? Chris Outcalt, Colorado Sun, July 7, 2022

Coming Together for the Colorado River

How to Save the Colorado River from Climate Change and Chronic Overuse, Lucas Isakowitz, Time, September 3, 2019

Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Presentation, February 15, 2019: When the Well Runs Dry: Securing Water for People & Nature in the Colorado River Basin

Standardizing Temporary Water Transfer Procedures in Colorado, with Peter D. Nichols, Anne J. Castle, Zach Smith and Aaron Derwingson, 22 U. Denv. Water L. Rev. 497 (2019).

Innovative Water Management: New Tools for Securing Water for People and Nature. Aaron Derwingson, The Water Report Issue 142 (December 15, 2015)