Community Agriculture Alliance: It takes a village
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
We are starting to see cooler nights and leaves hinting at signs of fall, but let’s not forget what we all experienced this summer. We’ve been talking about it for months now, but unprecedented drought has crippled the West, and the Yampa Valley was no exception.
We’ve been bombarded with recent headlines about historically large wildfires and historically low levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Releases from upper basin reservoirs, including Blue Mesa, Navajo and Flaming Gorge, are headed south through the Colorado River Basin with the hope of assisting those dwindling supplies. Agricultural producers, locally and across the West, are faced with difficult decisions about the future of their operations.
The first river closure on the Yampa occurred before we could even kick off the summer with Memorial Day celebrations this year. On May 24, a heavily fished stretch of the Yampa River just below Stagecoach Reservoir was closed due to low flows. At the time, the inflow at Stagecoach hovered around 8 cubic feet per second. The average inflow for that time of year is over 100 cfs.
Just barely squeaking through the Fourth of July holiday, the Yampa River closure through Steamboat Springs came July 7.
Luckily, water managers in the Yampa River Basin work year-round to ensure that funding is secured, legal mechanisms are in place and partnerships exist to keep the Yampa River flowing during times like these. The collaborative work of organizations like the Colorado Water Trust, the Yampa River Fund, the city of Steamboat Springs, Tri-State Generation, Colorado Division of Water Resources, the Colorado River District, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District and many others allow for reservoir releases that keep water in the river when it might otherwise dry up.
That collaboration is essential to the health of the river, but it’s simply not enough. Protecting the health of the Yampa takes a village. The whole village.
The sacrifices of those whose livelihood depends on water availability, including ag producers and river recreation outfitters, among others, does not go unnoticed. Thank you for being stewards of the river even at a huge cost.
To volunteers who dedicate their time to river clean up, water education and awareness projects, participating in regional conversations at the Yampa/White/Green Basin Roundtable, or any of the multitude of nonprofit organizations that focus on water resources, your contributions are invaluable. Thank you.
To recreationalists who respected both voluntary and mandatory river closures despite the overwhelming urge to cast a few lines, thank you for putting the health of the river first.
To those who practiced water conservation measures, including following watering restrictions, thank you for being conscientious.
See, we all play a part in protecting the river that sustains us. As we continue to face changing climates and water shortages, let’s all remember how important each of those roles are to the health of our river and how your involvement can help keep the river flowing in the future.
This summer has been a tough one, but the lifeblood of our village is still healthy and flowing thanks to all of you.
If you would like to learn more about water management at the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, please visit UpperYampaWater.com. You can also get involved with local water issues through the Yampa/White/Green Basin Roundtable. To learn more, visit YampaWhiteGreen.com.
Holly Kirkpatrick is public information and external affairs manager for the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District.
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