The greatest threat to Gallatin County, located just north of Yellowstone National Park, has also been one of TU's biggest opportunities to build political will. As the fastest growing county in Montana, Gallatin County is seeing its rural agricultural lands turned into suburban growth and its aquifers being tapped for new groundwater at an unprecedented rate. The number of new groundwater appropriations in the county has doubled since 1986. Increased groundwater withdrawals coupled with prolonged drought caused the Gallatin to reach its lowest base flow in recorded history in December of 2003. Recognizing the threat to river flows from the new groundwater development, TU and agricultural producers whose senior water rights would have been diminished, objected to a major new development proposal along the Gallatin River. Our success in the "Day Ranch" case a year later, forged a strong alliance with agricultural producers in the Gallatin Valley based on our common desire to prevent new groundwater development from harming stream flows and senior water rights.
Since Day Ranch, TU has partnered with Gallatin ranchers to obtain county-wide reforms in subdivision planning that help protect stream flows, and to successfully require precedent-setting mitigation for the largest proposed groundwater withdrawal along the Gallatin River so that river flows and water rights are protected. Through TU's alliance with Gallatin ranchers, we broadened the constituency for protecting stream flows into a politically potent force. Together, we have met with irrigators in other river basins in the state affected by groundwater development, with Farm Bureau leadership, and with key state agency officials. By presenting the alliance of Gallatin ranchers and TU on groundwater reform, we have obtained the attention of the Governor and the leadership of the DNRC, whose support, together with that of other agricultural leaders, will be crucial to passage of groundwater reform.
Montana Water Project Reports:
For more information contact:
Montana Water Project
321 E Main St #411
Bozeman, MT 59715
Laura Ziemer, Director, Montana Water Project
Contact Laura Ziemer 
Stan Bradshaw, Counsel, Montana Water Project
Contact Stan Bradshaw 
Julie Eaton, Program Administrator
Contact Julie Eaton