By Montana Grant

Posted: April 30, 2022

Montana water flows are impacted by Winter and Spring precipitation. High mountain snowpack is what feeds watersheds and keeps our waters cool, deep, and flowing. Summers in Big Sky Country normally have little rain. Our watersheds and forests and fields can dry up pretty fast.

Each year is different. Some years we get a major amount of snow or more rain during the summers. Montana has been in a ditch and drought for water for over a decade. Weather patterns have not blown in our favor.  This year seems to be less snow in the Mountains and hope for more rain now.

Fortunately, we have had recent rains and snow that are piling up. This last-minute precipitation is important and helpful. Now if the melt off is slow and consistent, we may be better off. If the snowpack melts quickly, we end up with floods followed by drought. You can check current SNOTEL levels online.

Hegben Dam, along the Madison River is preparing for a drought. They just cut back flows so they can store more water for the summer and power generation downstream. This means that any spawn that may have survived the dam’s malfunction, several months ago, now must try to survive another low water event. It is looking like another rough year for the already over fished Madison River. This is not smart fishery management.

The Bighorn River, in southeastern Montana, may also begin to have water issues, again. The dam that has created the amazing trout fishery, was built for irrigation, not fishing. As downstream farmers need more water, the fishery will suffer.

Water is in BIG demand in Big Sky Country. Most of our state has limited water resources. Some communities rely on water to carry their waste away. Big Sky sewage discharges are ruining the Gallatin River. Summer algae blooms are a problem has more nutrient wastes are dumped into the river.

Other non-fishery water needs require precious water for their golf courses, swimming pools, ponds, and lawns. It is common for irrigation ditches to be pirated by folks redirecting the water to their private needs. A record number of private ponds have been built in Gallatin County.

Boaters, floaters, and drifters all need water to maintain guide services, white water rafting adventures, and rubber hatch summer float trips. When you fish the Gallatin River, you will be interrupted by all these issues.

Pay attention to Smokey the Bear PLEASE! As our forests dry up, fire becomes a challenge. Most forest fires are started by humans. It is amazing how careless humans can be when outdoors.

Hopefully, we will continue to get more consistent precipitation throughout the summer.

Montana Grant