Panelists suggest options to deal with water allocation as summers heat up

Snowpack in the Anaconda Range feeds creeks and rivers in the region and provides an important source of water for agricultural irrigation. 

Duncan Adams, The Montana Standard

DILLON – The hard-bitten, blustering cattle rancher, he or she of pioneer progeny, sometimes occupies one extreme pole of the water allocation debate, and the fish-hugging, cattle-loathing, synthetic clad environmentalist stakes claim to the other.

And never the twain shall meet.

Given climate change, drought and anticipated snowpack shrinkage over time, the adversarial approach to managing water in Montana seems counter-productive.

In essence, Us versus Them needs to become Us.

That was a key takeaway from a panel discussion titled “Community Water Conversations” held Feb. 22 at the University of Montana Western.

Panelist Pat Byorth, Trout Unlimited’s Montana water director, described water use in Montana as a three-legged stool – with the legs representing agriculture, municipal/development consumption and fisheries/recreation.

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“The more Montanans work together, the more stable the three-legged stool will remain in the future,” Byorth said. “The question is, ‘Where do we go

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