Two documents that provide guidelines for what the community should do to manage the water supply during times of drought were released to the public on Thursday.
The Roaring Fork Watershed Plan and a Water Conservation Report were presented by the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative at a meeting in Carbondale that drew about 65 people.
Recommendations from the documents will be particularly useful in the upcoming months, said Mark Fuller, the director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, who helped draft the watershed plan.
“In light of what we’re going to go through this year because of low snowpack, water conservation recommendations are going to come to the forefront pretty quickly,” Fuller said.
Both documents go into detail on everything from how water conservation actions in the community can translate into increased streamflow levels, to what local governments can change in land-use policies in an effort to reduce water usage, Fuller said.
“I really think that’s going to be the subject of discussion over the next few months because we are going to be in for a very dry summer,” Fuller said.
The Water Conservation Report, which was produced by the Roaring Fork Conservancy, identifies potential strategies to benefit streamflows through educational outreach and government funding, while the watershed plan’s recommendations hone in on specific actions that could benefit the community and streamflow during periods of drought.
The plan’s recommendations include purchasing small storage water rights in local streams that can be used by the city during droughts, identifying weather triggers to better predict impending droughts and drafting emergency fishing regulations during periods of low streamflows.
The Roaring Fork Watershed Plan is a 143-page document with about 200 directed actions that attempt to identify and address the future environmental and management challenges the watershed will face in light of climate change and a growing population.
The Roaring Fork watershed covers 1,451 square miles on the west side of the Continental Divide and includes the Roaring Fork, Crystal and Frying Pan rivers, which ultimately drain into the Colorado River. It includes five municipalities and three counties.
The state’s population will grow from 5 million to almost 8 million by 2030, according to the plan. To accommodate that population increase, there needs to be 600,000 to 1 million acre-feet of additional water generated, and those figures do not include needs that might be generated by the effects of climate change, environmental and recreational uses and energy development, the plan says.
The plan is the product of over four years of effort by the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative, which included more than 100 people representing dozens of agencies, governments and interests.
“I think the notable thing about the plan is that there’s now an increased awareness and a lot of opportunities for collaboration and funding,” said Sharon Clarke, the land and water conservation specialist at the Roaring Fork Conservancy. “And those are two things that have hindered progress in the past.”
The plan divides water topics into five sections, which are regional water management, surface-water management, ground-water management, water quality, and riparian and instream areas. The document offers both practical recommendations, as well as idealistic advice to the challenges each issue faces.
Although the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative will continue to meet quarterly, it doesn’t have the ability as an entity to get things done, Clarke said. Municipalities and agencies affected by the watershed share that responsibility, she said.
“We have the marching orders,” Clarke said. “And now we have to start doing the actions to improve the rivers.”