Join us on a tour through the history of the West’s water systems and major rivers, as we navigate the challenges of drought and water-scarcity facing the region. We’ll also explore Trout Unlimited’s leadership in finding innovative solutions to long-standing problems.
Wrap-up: The state of our hydrology today in the Colorado River Basin
In this final installment of the Western Water 101 series we’ll turn our attention to current events to draw together some of the topics and themes we’ve explored over the course of the series. With the extremely dry conditions throughout the West, TU’s work—from on-the-ground projects to legislative advocacy and agency collaboration—is more important than ever. The current drought crisis in the region draws together many of the themes discussed over the course of this series:
How much water is there, especially in a climate that is increasingly drier and warmer, and how do we “best” use it? The movement from conflict to collaboration in twenty-first-century western water management. The need for twenty-first-century solutions, approaches, and infrastructure to confront the twenty-first-century challenges in the region.
We’ll focus on the Colorado River Basin to do a deeper dive on the current drought and how these themes are playing out in the watershed.
Working for legislative change
Along with the on-the-ground project work and agency relationship-building we focused on in the last two posts, TU also works for legislative change that improves habitat, provides tools to respond to drought, preserves a thriving agricultural economy and works toward water security in the West.
One of the legislative vehicles through which we work is the Farm Bill. This omnibus law is renewed every five to six years and covers a wide range of programs from crop insurance to commodity support to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). It also includes the Conservation Title, which governs a number of programs that provide assistance to agricultural producers through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Services Agency (FSA) to address environmental issues such as water quality and quantity, soil health and fish and wildlife habitat.
Join us as we talk with Trout Unlimited’s Senior Counsel and Water Policy Adivsor, Laura Ziemer about all things Farm Bill.
How our research advocates for change in the bureau of reclamation
In this episode, we’ll talk about how Trout Unlimited works with federal agencies to ensure that the projects they authorize and fund include projects that provide environmental uplift, increase water security and help answer the perpetual question of how best to use the West’s water resources in the twenty-first century.
TU staff work with federal agencies to make sure programs and funding respond to the West’s needs. In order to do this, we undertake detailed research and analysis of key programs run by federal agencies to see how the program has performed and whether it has fulfilled its statutory purposes. TU also draws on the deep well of experience from TU staff, volunteers, ranchers, farmers, and other partners engaged in putting projects on the ground in collaboration with the federal agencies. From this research and experience, we determine if there are agency-level or legislative changes we can advocate for to bring the greatest benefit to the West’s rivers, streams, and the communities that depend on them. We then work with agency staff, members of Congress and stakeholders to make these changes. Through this work TU has built deep relationships with the people who are engaged in these issues, and we are seen as a trusted, experienced and nonpartisan organization working for improved water management, water security, ecological health and a thriving agricultural economy in the West.
Flipping the system
In our last episode we explored how the management of water in the West has changed over the past few decades from a climate of conflict to one of collaboration and innovation. In this quest for increased water security, improved fish and wildlife habitat and the inclusion of diverse stakeholders in the decision-making process, TU’s on-the-ground projects lead the way in finding and implementing twenty-first-century solutions to twenty-first-century challenges.
In this episode, we talk with Paul Burnett, Utah Water and Habitat Program Lead with Trout Unlimited. Paul has, among other things, been working on using beaver dam analogs to restore Chalk Creek in Utah. We talk about the shift from large, low-elevation storage to slowing down water upstream, and how we can use physics and hydrology to help rivers heal themselves.
From conflict to collaboration
Since the mid-nineteenth century, the central question of the American West has been:
How much water is there in the region, and how do we best use it?
This question has been a topic of debate for more than the past 150 years, and we’re still trying to answer it now in the twenty-first century. Beginning in the mid-1800s, Euro-American settlers felt it was their duty to develop and control all the water in the West down to the last drop as a part of the Manifest Destiny of the nation. Today, the context around these discussions has changed to incorporate a greater range of uses, needs and values while facing an uncertain future as climate change makes the West drier, hotter and more arid—but the central question remains the same.
Join Sara Porterfield and Brennan Sang as they look back at how we’ve tried to answer this question, and the changes we’ve made along the way.
Introduction to western water
Welcome to the first installment in a series of podcasts about water in the West. Join us on a tour through the history of the West’s water systems and major rivers, as we navigate the challenges of drought and water-scarcity facing the region. We’ll also explore Trout Unlimited’s leadership in finding innovative solutions to long-standing problems.
In this first episode, we’ll be exploring the defining features of the West that shape the work that lies ahead of us as a western community.
Hosts: Sara Porterfield, Brennan Sang
For more information, check out the companion pages on TU.org.
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