How Are The River Valleys Of Wyoming And Montana Similar

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Farmland in the Little Snake River Valley on the border of Wyoming and Colorado. (Angus M. Thermer Jr./)

How Are The River Valleys Of Wyoming And Montana Similar

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Magnificent Hidden Gems To Discover In Wyoming This Year

Water battles are raging in the west. And Wyoming water officials want to prepare for that with a study that aims to identify and measure the state’s consumption of the Colorado River.

Jason Meade, interim director of the Wyoming Water Development Board, told the Water Development Commission on Oct. 6 looking ahead to a dry future and voluntary or mandatory restrictions. The goal, said state engineer Brandon Gebhart at WWDC, is to have “preventable consumption figures to carry over to other states” when and if momentum arises and users of the Colorado River face disruptions. in irrigation, industrial or municipal use

When water rights have been distributed on the Colorado River since 1922, officials overestimated how much water the system would produce each year and ended up promising more water to participants than it actually was. climate change drought climate change And the population explosion in the region has increased initial bookings.

Further complicates the picture. US Office of Reclamation The BOR, the government’s Western Water Authority, acknowledged that “these uses cannot be accurately assessed”. This “makes various differences” in how much water people use. Rivers and water use in 2022

Late Summer Mountains, Fence, In Grand Teton National Park, Wyom Stock Photo

As a result, the Colorado River and its tributaries. including the Green Snake River and the Little Snake River in Wyoming. Not as much water as initially thought and allocated. Moreover Runoff cannot be accurately measured, and the 40 million people in seven states and Mexico who depend on it have yet to agree on how to resolve conflicting disputes over their right to use it. is.

“Both the Upper Basin and the Lower Basin have their own views on this [lower] obligation,” said Wyoming water attorney Chris Brown.

The purpose of the bankruptcy investigation is to eliminate Wyoming’s wastage. If necessary, participate in discussions on water rights with other states.

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Green River, Wy

Based on the results of the study, Wyoming has “good controls over the use of products for consumption,” Mead told the Water Commissioner. But the state remains unsure about another key measure: losses from canals and drains that divert water from rivers and streams to crops. and how to be responsible These are losses. Only some of the loss could be due to Wyoming’s share of the watershed flow.

From the proposed study Wyoming was able to better measure the difference in airflow and consumption.

This allows the government to say “When we close the drain … we are saving consumption along the drain,” Gebhart said at WWDC with that information. “I think we could reasonably argue that we need to lock down fewer users.”

Wyoming does not expect any restrictions. It takes place before 2028, Gebhart told the Water Development Commission. However, not all allies agree with this timely assessment, saying the 2025 “turning point” could spark debate and conflict between states.

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“The first issue [in 2025] raises the issue of Upper Basin’s obligations to Mexico (if any) under the 1922 [Colorado River] Agreement,” said Chris Brown, senior assistant attorney general for the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office of the Water and Natural Resources Division. write.

Mexico is not a party to the 1922 treaty, but the Mexican Water Treaty Act of 1944 allows that country to use 1.5 million acres of water in the Colorado River each year. Contracts and agreements are part of the rules, agreements, and decisions that make up the Law of the River.

For the role of mexico “The Upper Basin and the Lower Basin have different views on this obligation,” Brown wrote. This distinction should be resolved before 2025 to “avoid conflict,” he said.

“This does not mean that we will reduce water use. and in the current situation We will not stop at that point [2025]…” he wrote. “Different opinions will not result in discounts.”

Green River Valley

Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs), an influential water developer in the Little Snake River, recommended the study, Mead and Gebhart said. It’s a “formally proposed project,” Gebhard said, and will be discussed further at WWDC in November. It has the goal of financing it either from the state’s surplus water account, through other appropriations from the Legislature or other sources.

After diversion of water from rivers or streams into a system of canals, ditches and pipes, some of them feed crops. Water managers acknowledge that some of the losses go back to the “systems” that feed the river’s flow.

Officials said that just as “backflow” water returns to rivers after irrigation floods, the loss of transportation returning to the system should not be considered a credit or deduction for Wyoming’s share of the Colorado Basin’s water. Education can help determine how much.

“Loss back into the system (seepage) at some point is not a loss. due to water coming back in,” Gebhart wrote in an email.

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But some of the water is useless for crops or returned to the river and must be counted as money. “Loss from sewerage that does not return to the system at any point is the loss It’s also called wasteful use,” Gebhart said.

This type of loss may come from evaporation. Consumption of uncultivated plants such as willows, consumption of mangrove trees Deep filling that does not flow into the Colorado River, and so on, Gebhart wrote.

Canal and sewer losses are estimated today and only in some irrigated regions. In the 2021 WWDC survey, only half of the 157 irrigated fields, sewer and canal companies, had any. and other irrigation agencies Contacted by the agency

The sluice on the canal in the Green Basin has a lock that can be used to control the flow of water. (Angus M. Thermer Jr./)

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Statewide studies estimate that about 24% of the water flowing through transportation systems is wasted. In the Green River and Little Snake watersheds, estimates are only 0.5% for the Blacks Fork Wall Austin Irrigation Area and 25% for the New Fork Irrigation Area.

Several utilities in the Green and Little Snake Basin did not respond to the latest survey. Including districts where water collectors and farmers want to spend millions in public money to build or expand collections to help with irrigation and other uses.

Experts agree that more is being promised to users of the Colorado River than the system can deliver—about 7.5 million acres feet annually for the four upper and three lower states, plus 1.5 million acres— feet to Mexico, 16.5 million hectares. The water availability calculation that the US fund set up in 1922 is completely wrong. many people agree And the last 23 years of drought, combined with climate change, have brought Lake Powell and Meadows to 28% capacity, a record low.

Some experts now say managers should expect only 9 million acre-feet per year in the system. According to proceedings of a September water seminar hosted by Colorado Public Radio, that’s about three-quarters of what all states, tribes and Mexico spend in 2021, CPR said, and 15 million less than the original estimate. acre foot in 1922

Wind River Valley From Dubois, Wyoming

If Wyoming faces other restrictions or regulations Regarding the Colorado River, Gebhart said his office will need more staff to patrol gates and exits. Six teams currently monitor more than 2,500 gates in the basin, he said, and it may need to increase to about 36.

The state engineer’s review is necessary because the upper portion of the state’s ban on the flow of the Colorado River at Lee Ferry, a dam below the Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell, is below the 10-year average of 7.5 million acres per year. Wyoming was contracted for 14% of the rest of the state’s top divisions.

From 2016-2020, the latest information available. The US Bureau of Reclamation’s interim report lists Wyoming’s average annual use at 421,000 acre-feet. Green Snake and Little Snake River farmers irrigated 305,800 acres in 2020, the report said. 83,800 units, said the Bor.

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