TU lauds WaterSMART program

Oct. 31, 2016


Laura Ziemer, lziemer@tu.org, (406) 599-2606

Trout Unlimited, Senior Counsel and Water Policy Advisor

Steve Moyer, smoyer@tu.org, (571) 274-0593

Trout Unlimited, Vice-President for Governmental Affairs


Trout Unlimited lauds WaterSMART program

New criteria prioritizes both water savings and river health

WASHINGTON, D.C. Trout Unlimited today praised the Bureau of Reclamations proposed new criteria for the WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants program. Under the proposed new criteria, WaterSMART would prioritize funding for water conservation projects that also enhance river flows and fish and wildlife habitat. Reclamations proposed changes finished a 30-day public comment last week.

This is truly water smart in that it makes federal investments go further by delivering benefits for both irrigated agriculture and river health, said Laura Ziemer, senior counsel and water policy advisor for Trout Unlimited. Its also a big step forward in the Department of the Interiors overall mission of improving the Wests ability to withstand the impacts of severe drought.

Previously, Reclamations WaterSMART evaluation criteria focused on projects that upgrade water systems to achieve water savings. Few of those projects, however, returned the saved water to in-stream flows to boost river health and wildlife habitat. The new criteria reward those agricultural producers taking the time and effort to work in a multi-stakeholder, watershed-based group working to find solutions to water scarcity that benefit both agriculture and rivers.

TU has decades of experience partnering with agricultural producers on collaborative conservation projects. On the Sun River in Montana, for example, TU worked with local irrigators, the WaterSMART program, Coca-Cola and other stakeholders to upgrade a complex network of leaky irrigation canals with lined canals and new pipelines. The result was not only improved water delivery for the irrigation districtbut the conserved water also helped replenish flows to the chronically dewatered Sun River.

The wild trout population has doubled with the improved Sun River flows. Trout Unlimited it hopeful more projects like the Sunthat benefit both producers and watershedswill come from the proposed changes to WaterSMART.

Whats significant now is that WaterSMART dollars will not only be going to conserve water, but also priority will be given to projects that protect and restore river flows with that conserved watermaking the whole river system more resilient to drought, said Ziemer.

Agriculture has also expressed support for Reclamations proposed criteria. The Family Farm Alliance and TU wrote a joint letter commenting on Reclamations proposed changes to the WaterSMART program. In their joint letter, TU and the Family Farm Alliance underscore that while showing water savings is still the fundamental requirement of the program, the new criteria promote important related goals, such as encouraging collaboration among river stakeholders and spurring creative water management to address water scarcity.

We thank Reclamation leadership and staff as well as Department of the Interior officials for their initiative in seizing this opportunity to further President Obamas goals on drought resilience in the West, said Steve Moyer, TUs Vice-President of Governmental Affairs. They listened to our ideas and worked with TU, agricultural producers, sportsmen and conservation groups to find creative solutions that provide benefits across multiple sectors. Thats really the model for water conservation in the future.

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Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization with over 150,000 members nationwide dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North Americas coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.