TU statement on Senate reauthorization of System Conservation Pilot Program

For immediate release

June 27, 2018


Steve Moyer, TU government affairs, smoyer@tu.org, 571-274-0593

Randy Scholfield, Trout Unlimited communications, 720-375-3961, randy.scholfield@tu.org

Senate reauthorizes program that helps farmers and ranchers conserve water

Program helps ease impacts of long-term drought in Colorado River Basin

Washington D.C.The Senate voted Monday to reauthorize a program that helps farmers and ranchers maintain their operations while keeping more water in streams in the West.

The System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP) was created to reimburse farmers and ranchers in the Colorado River Basin who enter voluntary, temporary agreements to conserve water.

The program, funded by municipalities, utilities and the Bureau of Reclamation, has grown significantly in previous years with demand outpacing funds. The conserved water could help offset water shortages in the Colorado River and help boost lake levels in Lake Powell.

Since 2015 there have been 93 applications to participate in the program in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming with 45 approved plans. In 2018, Wyoming saw 28 approved applications alone, saving an estimated 16,700 acre feet of water.

We are very excited to be able to continue this program, said Cory Toye, Wyoming Water and Habitat Program Director at Trout Unlimited. This kind of tailored program benefits farmers and ranchers and it benefits fish and wildlife. Drought is a big issue in the West and the SCPP is helping create tools to meet that challenge.

Drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin are long-term. Almost two decades of such conditions reinforces that drought is the new normal and that water users and other basin stakeholders need to collaborate to find innovative approaches to reducing overall system risks.

The most important thing to me is to keep the ranch intact and productive so my son can live and work here, said Eric Barnes on a recent trip to Washington D.C. Barnes is a rancher from Fontenelle Creek in Wyoming. The SCPP has helped us maintain productivity and create additional ranch revenue that keeps us in business. The reason we have encouraged our neighbors to participate in this program is because it is completely negotiated and on our own terms. Nobody is telling you how to use your water, but if you can find a way to conserve water for a few months during the irrigation season, you can improve your bottom line and maintain production.

For the last four years, TU has helped enroll ranchers and farmers in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah in the SCPP. The program is highly successful and popular with water right holders in the basin and is helping to develop a robust water market for a demand management program that offers compensation for the conservation of water.

The SCPP has created significant rancher and farmer interest in participating in demand reduction efforts and has done so in a way that protects water rights, keeps water rights attached to the land, and incentivizes landowner participation.

“Trout Unlimited deeply appreciates the outstanding committee work of Senators Alexander and Feinstein, and great Colorado River Basin leadership efforts of Senators Barrasso, Heller, Hatch, and Cortez Masto, which made this happen,” said Toye.

For more information see the final report from the Upper Colorado River Commission.

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