Community Agriculture Alliance: It takes a village
We see cooler nights and leaves indicating signs of fall, but let’s not forget what we all experienced this summer. We’ve been talking about it for months now, but an unprecedented drought crippled the West and the Yampa Valley was no exception.
We have been bombarded with breaking news headlines about historic major forest fires and historic low values in Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Releases from upper basin reservoirs including Blue Mesa, Navajo and Flaming Gorge are being diverted south through the Colorado River Basin in hopes of helping these dwindling supplies. Agricultural producers locally and across the West are faced with difficult decisions about the future of their farms.
The first river closure on the Yampa came before we started the summer with Memorial Day celebrations this year. On May 24, a heavily fished section of the Yampa River directly below the Stagecoach reservoir was closed due to low runoff. At the time, the influx at Stagecoach was fluctuating around 8 cubic feet per second. The average inflow for this time of year is over 100 cfs.
The closure of the Yampa River by Steamboat Springs on July 7th came just barely through the July 4th holidays.
Fortunately, water managers in the Yampa River Basin work year round to make sure funding is in place, legal mechanisms in place and partnerships are in place to keep the Yampa River flowing during times like this. The collaboration of organizations such as the Colorado Water Trust, the Yampa River Fund, the City of Steamboat Springs, the Tri-State Generation, the Colorado Division of Water Resources, the Colorado River District, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, and many others enables reservoir releases that keep water flowing when it might otherwise dry out.
This collaboration is essential to the health of the river, but it is simply not enough. A village is needed to protect the health of the Yampa. The whole village.
The victims of those whose livelihoods depend on the availability of water, including farm producers and river recreation outfitters, do not go unnoticed. Thank you for being steward of the river, even if it costs a lot of money.
For volunteers devoting their time to river cleaning, water education and awareness projects, participating in regional talks at the Yampa / White / Green Basin Roundtable, or one of the many nonprofits that focus on water resources, your contributions will be invaluable. Thanks very much.
To recreation seekers who, despite the overwhelming urge to throw a few lines, have respected both voluntary and mandatory river closures, thank you for putting river health first.
To everyone who has practiced water conservation measures, including observing irrigation restrictions, thank you for their conscientiousness.
You see, we all help protect the river that carries us. As we continue to face changing climates and water scarcity, we all remember how important each of these roles is to the health of our river, and how your commitment can help keep the river flowing in the future.
This summer was a tough summer, but the heart and soul of our village is still healthy and flowing thanks to all of you.
To learn more about water management in 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 the public information and external affairs manager for the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District.