Community Agriculture Alliance: Availability of water
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
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.
The Colorado Legislature passed the Water for the 21st Century Act in 2005. This act created the Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable as one of the nine basin roundtables throughout Colorado focused on providing collaborative local input on water policy. To do this, the roundtable is made up of 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 policies, and 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, 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 first released in 2015, which was used to drive local water policy and reduce the in-basin water supply gaps. The plan contains the goals of the roundtable and the projects and process to meet those goals. The nine roundtable plans were the framework for the development of the Colorado Water Plan, a plan that was developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to reduce the state’s water supply gaps by 2050.
To keep the water plan relevant, the board plans to update it every seven years, which requires the implementation plan to be updated first. The roundtables have just completed updating their implementation plans, and the board plans to use these updates and public input to update the water plan by 2022.
The implementation plan update also provided an opportunity for the roundtable to review its accomplishments. The roundtable 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 roundtable 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 roundtable has worked hard to support projects that are multibeneficial and impact all water users in the basin.
Since the first implementation plan was completed, the roundtable 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 roundtable implementation plan, 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 roundtable 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 is participation and outreach liaison with Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable Public Education.
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