Water and Watersheds
Drought, fires, and changing climate conditions are escalating water resource challenges across the West, while demand for water continues to increase, creating a cascade of ecological, economic and political tensions.
Western settlement patterns, past and present, have always followed the water. The majority of fertile valley bottoms and accessible water resources are thus privately owned. Decisions private landowners and agricultural producers make about water use are critical to the West’s future.
WLA helps landowners conserve and restore water resources by providing peer-based support, education and resources for:
- Riparian restoration
- Water conservation and retention projects
- Irrigation efficiency improvements
- Sustainable water and land use decisions
WLA also advocates for policies that enable landowners to use water resources more efficiently:
- Enabling landowners to leave water in-stream for fish and wildlife without losing their water rights
- Providing incentives for water conservation through tax benefits and other mechanisms
- Funding for landowners to implement water conservation and riparian restoration projects; WLA recently joined key groups calling on President Trump to prioritize Western water needs
- Support through funding and landscape-scale collaboration for private land stewardship of forests and watersheds
- Policy Regarding Voluntary Prelisting Conservation Actions. Read our comments to the United States Fish and Wildlife service
Many states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, and others, are implementing statewide Water Planning. WLA drafted and adopted the following WLA Principles for State Water Planning [299KB PDF] for use by its members and others who are engaging in these planning processes throughout the West.
A new booklet produced by WLA highlights the importance of private stewardship of streams and riparian areas in New Mexico’s arid environment. Infographics, maps and information on streams that flow across private land are provided in this beautifully illustrated publication. An online digital version is available here.
WLA Water and Watersheds staff have been working to help members and others understand and engage on the EPA/Corps rule proposals related to federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction, including a Policy Brief and comments to the agencies. A “Waters of the U.S.” video, below, includes an explanatory presentation by EPA staff, as well as Q&A, from a recent Montana state legislative committee meeting (video quality is less than ideal due to low light and resolution):