Trout Unlimited: Conservation ‘part of the solution’ for bolstering River flows
Ranchers embraced measures under program

The organization Trout Unlimited last week issued a statement regarding the Upper Colorado River Commission’s decision to pause administration of the System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP).

On June 20, the Upper Colorado River Commission adopted a resolution taking a pause on administering the System Conservation Pilot Program in the Upper Colorado River Basin. SCPP, funded by the Bureau of Reclamation and several major municipal water providers, is designed to enhance flows in the Colorado River and ultimately bolster water supply levels in Lake Powell, according to a press release from TU. The UCRC indicated that it will turn its efforts to solving the issues associated with accounting, managing and implementing a longer-term demand-management program to protect critical levels at Lake Powell. The UCRC also acknowledged the potential benefits of demand management/system conservation and the interest shown by producers in a program that provides voluntary, temporary and compensated reductions in water use.

So far, 2018 has been a near-record dry year. Current projections put both Powell and Mead at less than 50 percent capacity by the end of the water year. As a key water manager has noted, this puts the Colorado River system in “uncharted territory.”

Scott Yates, director of TU’s Western Water and Habitat Program, issued the following statement:

“We’re extremely proud to have worked with agricultural producers interested in the System Conservation Pilot Program. The SCPP has proved the enormous potential for water demand management to address drought and climate impacts on the Colorado River Basin’s water supplies. We’ve learned that there is significant interest among ranchers and farmers for a program that compensates them for voluntary, temporary reductions in water use. That was a key question about SCPP—would agricultural producers respond to market-based incentives? The answer is an unqualified ‘yes.’ TU believes that the SCPP in the Upper Basin has been successful in allowing producers to explore whether using their water right in this innovative way can benefit their operations. Many participants embraced the SCPP approach, especially if such a program can operate over the longer-term.”

Yates added, “We’re facing another challenging drought year. The need for a voluntary demand-management program that works for states, water users and the environment is more urgent than ever, and we look forward to working with our partners to move this forward expeditiously.”

Cory Toye, Wyoming director of TU’s Western Water and Habitat Program, said: “We applaud the UCRC and the funders of the SCPP for what has been accomplished to date. Trout Unlimited and its partners stand ready to engage productively in the UCRC’s development of a longer-term demand-management program.”