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Community Agriculture Alliance: New normal?

Holly Kirkpatrick
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Among all of the lessons we’ve learned in 2020, residents of the Yampa Valley are also being reminded of the importance of water in our communities. While things may have looked hopeful back in June, this hot, dry summer quickly took a turn for the worse. The Yampa River below Stagecoach went on call for the second time ever.

The first call occurred a mere two years ago in 2018. A section of the river was closed for recreation just before the Labor Day weekend, and the holiday weekend ended with a wildfire exploding just a few miles from Steamboat Springs.

We’ve all heard the term “the new normal” way more than we would prefer during this unprecedented year. The term has been applied to many of the difficult situations we have faced in 2020. No matter the context of the new normal, it can be a little hard to fend off a looming sense of doom and gloom, even for the optimists.

With high temperatures, low flows and fires burning across the state, perhaps you’ve started to ask yourself if this is the new normal for summers in Colorado. Maybe, but as the resilient people that we have been all year, we work together to create hope for the future.

Many people all across the state and right here in the Yampa Valley are dedicated to planning for water management in continued drought. The Yampa-White-Green River Basin Roundtable is developing a new basin implementation plan that will contribute to the larger Colorado Water Plan.

The Yampa River Integrated Water Management Plan is bringing together stakeholders and assessing diversion infrastructure to identify potential improvements that benefit all water users and protect existing water rights. The Yampa River Fund is offering grant funding for projects that support the health of the Yampa River.

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District is offering grant funds for the installation of headgates and measuring devices that will ensure accurate record-keeping and protect water rights moving forward. These efforts are just a few of many that help water users maintain and protect their water rights and look for creative solutions to managing water shortages in the future.

If you’ve asked yourself if the drought we’re experiencing now will become the new normal, I encourage you to learn more about these efforts and get involved. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rancher, a boater, an angler or simply enjoy the water that comes out of your tap, we are all stakeholders in our Yampa River and the river needs you almost as much as you need it.

If you found yourself directly affected by the recent call on the Yampa River, you may also be interested in contacting the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District to discuss an augmentation plan or potential contract for water out of Stagecoach Reservoir. Contact info@upperyampawater.com or 970-871-1035.

Holly Kirkpatrick is the communication and marketing manager for the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District.


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