Letter to the Editor – Yampa River water issues unfairly portrayed in Fresh Water News

In Northwest Colorado and along the Yampa River, water is literally the lifeblood of our community. Iit defines our geography, sustains our businesses, grows our food and is integral to our way of life.  While the use of water within the Yampa Basin can bring out strong reactions, we don’t feel our communities, government and water users are as divided as depicted in Fresh Water News, Dec. 18 article on the Yampa River.

In fact, quite the opposite, we are actively working together and cooperatively to adjust to a changing Yampa River.  The drought in 2018 was alarming not only for the short term impacts on our pastures and meadows and other water uses but also due to the realization that the Yampa River was never going to be managed the same as it had been for generations.

To tackle this we will put our heads together and roll up our sleeves. The Division Engineer’s Office, the agriculture community and water users throughout the basin will come to a solution that will create long term benefits for all water users.

One of these solutions is working with water users on measuring devices that will more accurately measure the  diversion of water to allow more certain administration of a water right. But over the long run it also has the benefit of giving the basin important information on how our water is used to enable water rights holders to use what they have more effectively and, more importantly, enable every water user to plan for a future where the Yampa River continues to sustain our businesses, farms, ranches and communities.

We know there are many questions on the new measuring device order. The Division Engineer’s Office has already received hundreds of phone calls in the past year and is happy to continue to listen and talk about specific concerns and issues from any water user. We encourage you to reach out. The Office has also published a Functional Standards for Measuring Devices that can be found on the Division of Water Resources website (water.state.co.us) under Division Offices Division 6 and may be a helpful guide for many water users.

In the end, we have our challenges but we are confident that together we can ensure that everyone understands the purpose behind this effort and the benefits it will have for them in the long run. We have our system of water rights and laws because water is limited in Colorado. But behind those are a lot of conversations, questions, trial and error and listening which needs to happen to make those laws work. The Yampa River Basin has a long history of balancing the diverse uses of water in our communities. We have a lot to be proud of within our Basin, and working together, we can preserve what we cherish in our communities, while better planning for our future.

Mike Camblin, Moffat County rancher

Erin Light, division engineer, Water Division 6, Colorado Division of Water Resources

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