Letter to the Editor: Water update from new chair of YWG RT

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Dear Editor:
This is an open letter to residents of Rio Blanco County and residents of those in the Yampa-White-Green rivers basin.

As new chair of the Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Round Table (YWG RT) I’m writing today to give an update on some of the water issues being addressed both in Northwest Colorado and throughout the state.
YWG RT was formed pursuant to the Water For The 21st Century Act passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2005. The roundtable currently has 13 members representing a variety of water stakeholders and interests in Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. Members are elected and/or appointed to their positions per the requirements of the statute and the roster is filled with people who have a passion for preserving the water in our region.
Officers are elected annually and must represent the Yampa and White river basins. Jackie Brown and Alden Vanden Brink from Routt and Moffat counties respectively now serve as the vice-chairs. Jon Hill from Rio Blanco County is immediate past chair. We have met consistently since our formation to identify, quantify and address challenges of water quantity and quality for the Yampa, White and Green rivers.
YWG RT is one of nine basin round tables in Colorado. During 2014 and 2015, our RT was engaged fully with the development of our Basin Implementation Plan. We have authorized studies that help us understand the agricultural, industrial and municipal, environmental and recreation needs of Northwest Colorado.
Many of our members serve on state and regional committees, task forces and modeling crews. All have attended countless meetings and volunteered incalculable hours to produce the Basin Implementation Plan, which was used in the development of the Colorado Water Plan.
Colorado’s Water Plan (CWP) has been submitted to Gov. John Hickenlooper by CWCB and is now available for public review. This written plan is the product of one of the largest civic engagement processes in state history, reaching from corner to corner of the state and across thousands of miles of rivers, creeks, reservoirs and dams. It is a roadmap of measurable objectives, goals and actions that will help Colorado address projected future water needs.
It is not a regulatory document, but will be implemented through collaboration among the stakeholders of Colorado water interests. CWP is premised on three aspects: Interstate compacts and equitable apportionment decrees, Colorado water law and local control. At the Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Round Table we have worked hard to fully understand the impacts of each of these for our future water needs and availability.
YWG RT is now ready to focus on “on-the-ground” projects. We would like to collaborate with proponents of projects that will focus on actions that can help Northwest Colorado meet its immediate challenges and adapt to changing conditions that face our water supply and demand. If you have a project, please contact me at marytaylorbrown@gmail.com.
Snow is accumulating in Northwest Colorado and in the California mountains. This is good news because of the water it brings for the coming spring and summer. Throughout the West the conversations can now shift from severe drought conditions to water storage. Conservation and alternative water uses will become the norm rather than an afterthought.
Water wars have been part of the history of the West. The challenges for the next generation are going to be even greater, but thanks to the foresight of Colorado’s stakeholders, we are planning to use this resource wisely to ensure that the future generations will have enough water to meet their ever-growing needs.
Mary Brown
Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Round Table