Request for Qualifications: RiverSmart Resource Development

River Network

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Description of Need

River Network is developing an approach (goals, authors, broad outline of content and roll-out plans) to inform production of a “River Smart” resource. This resource would be developed in subsequent years to help educate local government planners and their watershed coalition partners in the Upper Basin States of the Colorado River Basin on the nature and benefits of a dynamic healthy river (i.e., one that maintains natural floodplain connection processes) and where that intersects/conflicts with human interest. It will also provide some best practices for development and land use policies for land and water planners in riverside communities to foster floodplain connection. The plan developed in this scope will also help inform and implement the Walton Family Foundation’s (WFF) 5-year strategy of innovation in river management and natural infrastructure.


Ecologically healthy rivers depend upon three primary aspects: adequate flow, adequate water quality, and the ability of the river itself to interact with its floodplain. The daily interactions a community has with the riverscape, including management of lands along the river channel and in the watershed, allowable development and constraining the channel, is one of the great drivers to maintaining healthy rivers and communities. Addressing these challenges starts with helping local community decision-makers understand how various floodplain management practices can either harm or benefit river health and impact local communities, and identify what river management practices are best suited to support a healthy river system.

Programs already exist throughout the country that seek to guide community decisions at the intersection of climate resilience, flood hazard reduction and river health. This project does not seek to reinvent the wheel, but instead learn what is working from existing efforts (both in content and in delivery), identify gaps in knowledge or practice in the Colorado River Basin, and propose a path forward to help fill those gaps. Examples include Massachusetts’s RiverSmart Communities, Floodplains by Design in Washington, and the Floodplain Prioritization Tool for the Mississippi


  • This project will examine relevant resources/programs from throughout the United States (and possibly other countries) for their content and for how they are disseminated to their target audiences, to inform a set of programmatic recommendations that apply in the upper Colorado river basin states
  • This project seeks to outline methods to protect rivers from future development/management harms through allowing for freedom space, not to “fix” rivers that are already well entrenched in urban landscapes through active restoration
  • This 7-month effort will create the development plan and broad outline of this Resource for consideration by WFF, not the Resource itself and future funding is currently uncertain.
  • The audience for this deliverable is staff at the WFF (as well as other possible funders), while the audience for the Resource itself is community leaders and land planners, watershed stakeholders and local watershed coalitions that regularly interact with them/advocate among them, and state agencies that guide/fund local decision makers.

Tasks and Deliverables

The expected outputs of this project include:

  1. Using program examples compiled by River Network, the contractor will interview local government planning staff and their watershed coalition partners in select locations to determine if/how they utilize knowledge about river “freedom space” in their land use regulations and decisions, their primary sources/events for training and tools, and where they see challenges in implementing these concepts. Assuming ~10 interviews in locations drawn from program examples and locations in the upper basin states where this type of program does not exist to see how knowledge and challenges may differ.
  2. Research and summarize the content, delivery/dissemination methods and impact of the examples gathered by River Network, examine their applicability to the upper Colorado River Basin states and gather ideas for content/resource structure. Prepare written report of these findings. (Note: how impact is quantified/measured will be agreed to between RN and contractor upfront and will be aligned with the time and money available)
  3. From examples gathered by River Network, identify common recommended policies and management practices applicable to the upper Colorado River basin, including regulatory and non-regulatory approaches. Prepare written report of these findings.
  4. Host a 1-day work session with River Network and the Walton Family Foundation to debrief the results from above and identify content/structure of the Resource plan.
  5. Assist River Network in writing the Resource plan.

Expected Timeline

This is a seven-month contract to be completed between May and November 2021. The contractor will report to River Network. This project is a joint effort between River Network and the Walton Family Foundation. We expect that a majority, if not all of the work associated with this contract, will be done remotely through telephone and video appointments and interviews, as well as other research.

Submittal Requirements

  • Background and experience relevant to this request for qualifications, including:
    • Familiarity with land use and flood hazard planning in one or more of the upper Colorado River basin states
    • Familiarity with the river science concepts of “freedom space” and floodplain connection
    • demonstrated excellence in working remotely, engaging a variety of stakeholders (local government staff, nonprofit collaborators, water resource professionals, etc.), and maximizing forward progress on project goals through targeted meeting agendas and strong project management
  • Project understanding and proposed tasks and deliverables, if different than outlined above
  • Cost estimate for all services associated with this project. Costs are not to exceed $20,000.
  • Examples of past work products.
  • Two client references
  • Any additional information relevant to this project.

Submission Directions and Deadlines

Please submit your proposal of no more than 7 pages (excluding work product examples) by or before Monday, April 12, 2021 to Nicole Seltzer via email at  with “RiverSmart Project“ in the subject line. Final decisions will be made by or before April 30, 2021 with work to commence by May 1, 2021.

About River Network

River Network envisions a future of clean and ample water for people and nature, where local caretakers are well-equipped, effective and courageous champions for our rivers. River Network’s mission is to empower and unite people and communities to protect and restore rivers and other waters that sustain all life. We are committed to embracing diversity, equity and inclusion in all areas to achieve our mission – explore our core values and commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, our explanation for why equity, diversity an inclusion are the foundation of our mission, and our principles for equitable and inclusive work. Through our programs, we seek to connect with all communities and increase the impact of their efforts to secure clean and ample water. Through our internal practices and external leadership, we seek an inclusive workplace culture that attracts diverse staff, board, members, and supporters. Visit to learn more about our current priorities and our team.




IHE Delft Institute for Water Education - MSc in Water and Sustainable Development