Community Agriculture Alliance: Availability of water
For the Craig press
The availability of water is easily taken for granted. For most of us, we simply turn on a tap in our homes and water is there. But it is critical to our lives, and as the availability of water changes it impacts everyone across the state. Colorado legislature passed the Water for the 21st Century Act in 2005. This Act created the Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable (YWG BRT) as one of the nine basin roundtables throughout Colorado focused on providing collaborative local input on water policy. To do this the YWG BRT is made up 35 members that represent all water users in the basin. This specially calls out representatives from agriculture, municipal and industrial water users, as well as representatives from the environmental and recreational communities. These members review local and regional water issues and polices, review and support local water projects that will help reduce water supply gaps within the region. Two members of the roundtable are also part of the InterBasin Compact Committee (IBCC), which is a committee made up of the basin roundtables members and Governor appointees, which provides a diverse balanced forum for water policy input across the State.
All the roundtables developed a Basin Implementation Plan (BIP) first released in 2015, which was used to drive local water policy and reduce the in-basin water supply gaps. The BIP contains the goals of the roundtable and the projects and process to meet those goals. The nine roundtable BIPs were the framework for the development of the Colorado Water Plan, a plan that was developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to reduce the State’s water supply gaps by 2050. To keep the Water Plan relevant the CWCB plans to update it every seven years, which requires the BIPs to be updated first. The Roundtables have just competed updating their BIPs and the CWCB plan to use these updates and public input to update the Water Plan by 2022.
The BIP update also provided an opportunity for the YWG BRT to review its accomplishments. The YWG BRT has helped fund agriculture diversion improvements and the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District grant program. Other projects include support for the Lake Avery leased water coordination, funding for the Leafy Spurge Project, and the Lower Elkhead Creek Restoration Project. The YWG BRT has also provided funding for municipal entities to enact water conservation programs and for the development of three water management plans (Steamboat Springs Management Plan, Yampa Integrated Water Management Plant and White River Integrated Water Initiative) as well as the White River and Upper Yampa Algae Research Projects. The YWG BRT has worked hard to support projects that are multi-beneficial and impact all water users in the basin.
Since the first BIP was completed, the YWG BRT has identified new challenges including: uncertainty of water uses with energy production (oil, gas, coal): endangered fish and related recovery programs; increasing recreational use of the rivers; increased water temperature and nutrient loads with state/federal regulations; and Colorado River Compact issues. No new goals were added to the YWG BRT BIP but new objectives have been included many of which focus on public education relating to Colorado compact issues, wildfire impacts, and work to highlight projects that demonstrate best management practices. The YWG BRT also wants to hear from the public to provide a diverse range of local perspectives on water policy issues. Water impacts everyone. We encourage you to learn more and get involved with issues that are important to you. You can start at yampwhitegreen.com
Patrick Stanko, Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable Public Education, Participation and Outreach (PEPO) Liaison
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