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Water

More with less: Wyoming Water Association looks at future of Wyoming water

Written by Saige Albert

Casper – From Oct. 26-28, members of the Wyoming Water Association met in Casper for their annual meeting and education seminar with the theme, “Doing More with Less.”

“The Wyoming Water Association’s (WWA) objectives are to promote the development and conservation water for the benefit of Wyoming people,” said WWA President Frank Grimes of Pinedale. “As such, WWA promotes a venue for the exchange of ideas, information and education on water resources to all our membership.”

WWA also provides policy statements on water resource issues for policy makers, and they strive to provide networking opportunities for diverse groups in the water community.

“If our attendees look around, they’ll see people from the agriculture industry, municipalities and other industries,” Grimes continued. “We have consumptive and non-consumptive water users all here, all to discuss Wyoming water.”

He added that WWA provides many opportunities for those interested in water in Wyoming to get involved.

WWA co-hosted the event with the University of Wyoming Office of Water Programs.

Office of Water Programs Director Greg Kerr commented, “We all learn from each other, by interacting and listening, and we all benefit by coming together at this conference.”

Advisor reports

To start the meeting, a panel of WWA’s advisors provided updates from their agencies, including the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), Wyoming Water Development Office, Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission.

“The motto of this conference is, ‘Doing More with Less,’ and we’re getting pretty good at that,” said WGFD Director Scott Talbott.

Talbott continued that water is vastly important for wildlife in the state.

“Obviously budgets are something that we hear about in the newspaper every day,” he said. “Yesterday, we saw another $150 million in potential cuts for the budget. We cut about 10 percent of our budget five years ago, including 24 positions.”

Many of those positions are still vacant today.

“With budget cuts, the sun shone on us this summer with a little bit of rain,” Talbott added. “It’s good to see this rain. When it rains, wildlife does very, very well.”
Talbott noted that wildlife responded favorably to wetter weather, and populations of deer and antelope fawns were higher than have been seen since the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“When we look at 2012, which was the hottest, driest year on record in the state of Wyoming, we saw six fawn survive per 100 does that summer,” Talbott explained. “In the past few years, we have seen the most mule deer since the mid-80s and most antelope since the mid-90s.”

Water quality

The Department of Environmental Quality’s Jennifer Zygmunt also provided updates for WWA, noting that they have been working diligently on the Categorical Use Attainability Analysis for Recreation, Governor’s Wyoming Water Strategy and the non-point source program.

DEQ is the agency overseeing Initiative Number Eight in the Wyoming Water Strategy, which focuses on the collection and use of credible data.

“We want to make sure we’re using our resources efficiently and effectively,” Zygmunt said. “We’re evaluating the adequacy of our Quality Analysis and Quality Control systems.”

As part of the process, Zygmunt noted that they are evaluating how to identify appropriate uses of data and vet data sources.

“We’re in an internal evaluations step, but we will bring these to partnerships and agencies as we go forward.”

They have updated their Standard Operating Procedures manual for collecting data to modernize the manual, and DEQ has also updated guidance in their Sampling Analysis Plans.

Work will continue to address all points of the Water Strategy’s Initiative Eight.

Relative to the non-point source pollution program, Zygmunt noted that the program’s board met last week to distribute funds in two grant programs – 319 grants and the 205(j) grants.

“We have about $850,000 on an annual basis in federal dollars,” she said. “We are also required to have a 40 percent non-federal match on that.”

State Engineer’s Office

Steve Wolff of the State Engineer’s Office looked at several of the major project they have been working on, including the Laramie County Control Area and the Colorado River.

“In southeast Wyoming, we’ve seen a lot of action relative to the Laramie County Control Area,” Wolff said. “Water users down there are well aware of this.”

Following an order issued by State Engineer Pat Tyrell in September 2015, water users were required to install meters on their wells by Oct. 1, 2016. At the same time, all lands under the permits must be adjudicated by the end of 2017.

“We also have done some major upgrades to the e-permitting system,” added Wolff.

“We also are looking at the Colorado River,” Wolff said. “There was a discussion in front of the Wyoming Water Development Commission.”
At the time, the Commission looked at a study relative to Wyoming’s appropriation under the Colorado River Compact and how the state might use that.

“We’ve been working on a report of the roles, responsibilities and issues in the that,” he said. “We plan to present it to the Commission at their November meeting.”

Harry LaBonde discussed projects that will be discussed by the Water Development Commission, which he also described on page 2 of this week’s Roundup.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at saige@wylr.net.