When it comes to water, the West is at a crossroads. Water is a scare commodity –and it’s getting scarcer. Increasingly, our rivers and streams are facing threats from drought, population growth and other pressures. TU’s Western Water Project is committed to finding smart water solutions that will boost in-stream flows and restore the health of important trout fisheries.
Water is the lifeblood of our communities and our region. But many of our rivers and streams are severely pressured, depleted and at times drained dry, with disastrous impacts on trout habitat and populations. We can either continue to practice the shortsighted water grabs and business as usual of the past—and lose some of our most famous fisheries and outdoors heritage in the process—or we can embrace new ideas and a more collaborative and balanced approach to water policy.
TU’s Western Water Project started from the recognition that the health of our rivers, fisheries and wildlife must be included in water flow decisions and planning at the state and local levels. In the last decade, we’ve seen some real progress toward this goal. TU has helped make thoughtful, pragmatic updates to some state water codes to make restoring and improving stream flows easier, yet fair and equitable to water rights holders. We’ve partnered with ranchers, landowners and agencies on scores of on-the-ground projects to restore and reconnect fragmented river systems. We’ve stepped in to protect some of our last best places from short-sighted development. You can read about some of those success stories on these pages.
Although huge challenges remain, we’re optimistic about the future of our rivers and fisheries in the West. Many leaders are putting aside age-old differences to do what is best for their state’s precious water resources. By balancing conservation and natural resource needs with the concerns of agriculture and expanding populations, we can find win-win solutions today that assure the continuing availability of our water for a variety of uses tomorrow.
We believe that, at bottom, most Westerners want to hand down a legacy of healthy rivers and streams for future generations. Because here in the West, those rivers run deep, through our lives and our souls. Working together, we can make sure those waters continue to flow.
--Scott Yates, director, Trout Unlimited’s Western Water Project