HELENA, Mont. — With support from the governor’s office and executive branch feedback, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is leading a comprehensive review of water management and administration as part of the Governor Greg Gianforte’s Montana Comeback Plan and Red Tape Relief initiative.
“After almost 50 years of piecemeal adjustments to the Water Use Act, we believe it is time to review our current water administration and management so we can meet the water needs of the 21st Century,” said Anna Pakenham Stevenson, Water Rights Division Administrator at the DNRC.
Increasing population, an expanding economy, and more frequent and persistent drought are factors attributed to increased water demand. This demand has necessitated a water management system that is easily navigated and understandable for Montana citizens.
Under the leadership of DNRC Director Amanda Kaster, the agency initiated a comprehensive review of the state water management system in June 2021 resulting in the identification of a series of key challenges and action plans to address the challenges. The review is now moving into phase three of the project – implementation of the action plans.
Individual Stakeholder Working Groups will meet for the first time to collaboratively discuss how to address two of the identified key water challenges – final decree transition and changes, mitigation, and exceptions. The working meetings are open to the public for observation with opportunities to submit comments during a public comment period at each meeting or online at any time.
The first meeting for the Stakeholder Working Groups is this Thursday, March 10 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. where the final decree transition key challenge will be addressed. The second working group to address the changes, mitigation and exceptions key challenge will meet Wednesday, March 23.
Information on registering to view the meetings online or submit comment is available at https://comprehensivewaterreview.mtdnrc.gov/pages/meetings-and-materials.
Working groups represent diverse water interests and will make recommendations to the DNRC and the executive branch on changes needed to streamline and improve water administration and management in Montana. External stakeholder support, collaboration, and engagement will drive the review and development of strategies to address the challenges.
A website dedicated to the comprehensive water review efforts has also been launched. The site details the identified key challenges and provides a single place for the public to receive updates on the review efforts and to provide comment. The public is encouraged to visit the website and submit and questions or comments they might have https://comprehensivewaterreview.mtdnrc.gov/.
“We know this is a bold undertaking; it won’t happen overnight, and meaningful change will require time,” said Pakenham Stevenson. “But we are committed to a cooperative stakeholder process that will comprehensively review and address water administration and management to create a path for a sustainable water future in Montana.”