All about the White River Integrated Water Initiative

RBC I What is the natural “work” of the White River vs. what “work” we ask of the White River? Without the need to satisfy human requests of the river, the work of the river is to move water from the headwaters to its confluence with the Green River. We ask much more of the river. We ask it to satisfy municipal needs (drinking water, water our lawns and plants, and other domestic uses), provide a place to raft and recreate, provide a safe and healthy habitat for fish, and supply irrigation water. What happens when rivers are not able to do all that we ask? When the rain or snow don’t come and the water supply lessens? These questions and more prompted Colorado to develop a statewide water plan. Colorado’s Water Plan calls for 80% of its streams to have a management plan by 2030. The White River Integrated Water Initiative (WRIWI) is our local water planning effort coordinated by the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts. 

The White River Integrated Water Initiative is a community driven effort to utilize local resources to promote a healthy river for the benefit of agriculture, the environment, and the local customs and culture along the White River and its tributaries. The WRIWI is directed by the Planning 

Advisory Committee (PAC) which is composed of people representing environmental, municipal, industrial, and agricultural interests. In addition to the diverse nature of the PAC, several public meetings have been held over the last two years to ensure the community’s interests, needs, and concerns for the White River are understood and incorporated into the planning process. 

During Phase I, this stakeholder driven initiative has identified four goals to guide the water planning process.  The first priority is to protect and preserve existing agricultural water rights and water rights for other beneficial uses. Secondly, protect and enhance water quantity and quality through promoting best management practices (BMP) for forest health, riparian health, rangeland health, and favorable conditions of streamflow. The third goal is to identify opportunities for the creation or improvement of infrastructure to support efficient consumptive and non-consumptive uses. Lastly, the WRIWI supports the development and maintenance of efficient and necessary long-term storage solutions that will improve, enhance, and ensure irrigation, river health, water quantity, water quality, and native and recreational fisheries.

We are currently in Phase II of the planning process. Phase II is focused on the third goal and involves three main processes: Assessing Diversion Structures, Assessing Riparian Areas, and meeting with the community to define the scope of work for Phase III. The purpose of the assessments is to evaluate the current status of the White River and Piceance Creek. How are the diversion structures working? Do they allow fish to move naturally in the river? What are the conditions of the riparian areas? After this information is obtained, it will be the work of the PAC and Community Input sessions to determine the next steps, Phase III. For this we need you! Please join us at one of our four community meetings in August. These meetings will be held in the Buford Schoolhouse on Aug. 11, Meeker at the Rio Blanco Fire Building on Aug. 12, Rangely in the Weiss Conference Room at CNCC on Aug. 18, and Piceance Creek at the Rock Schoolhouse on Aug. 19. All meetings will start at 6 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m.

For more information about the WRIWI, please log on to the district website, and click the Water Initiative tab.  

Submitted on behalf of the White River Integrated Water Initiative

Special to the Herald Times