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The need for watershed scale planning

Dan Ben-Horin
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Coming on the heels of this past November’s Colorado Water Plan, the Middle Colorado Watershed Council has just released a plan of its own, focusing exclusively on the Middle Colorado River Watershed.

The plan establishes a framework for protecting and enhancing the health of the Colorado River between Glenwood Canyon and De Beque, including all of the tributaries in between. Many of the goals outlined in the Colorado Water Plan are identified on a local level, with specific projects and strategies targeted to seek out solutions.

The plan was compiled by the council over several years through a comprehensive public process. Input was actively sought from the local and regional community. Collaboration with all interested parties was key to successful development of the plan.



“Open community discussion demonstrates how creative, collaborative planning can contribute to the long-term health and protection of the Middle Colorado River Watershed,” said MCWC Board President Donna Gray. “We are thrilled to have our planning complete so that we can move on to doing our work.”

With the plan in place, work in the watershed has already begun to promote and facilitate partnerships that lead to increased capacity at the local level to protect and enhance water quality, to encourage smart and efficient water use and conservation, and to sustain and improve the present health of the watershed. Through discourse with local stakeholders, it was recognized that:



• Local streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs provide ecological, economic and recreational values.

• The stream and river corridors and the habitat they support contribute to viewsheds, community character and local lifestyles.

• There is a need to clearly define and document the current ecological health of local streams and rivers.

• There is a need to identify causes and sources of impairment in order to determine the best course of action and promote restoration as the region continues to develop.

• A localized, voluntary approach to community-based stewardship is an effective method for accomplishing the goals set forth in the plan.

The plan itself was designed as a blueprint for action. While it does not enforce any regulation, it does lay out an action plan that can be undertaken to address watershed issues, and presents potential opportuni-ties to fulfill the plan’s goals. The goals outlined in the plan all align with the mission of the MCWC to evaluate, protect and enhance the health of the middle Colorado River Watershed.

• Goal 1: Support the long-term health of the Middle Colorado River Watershed for the well-being of the community and the local economy.

• Goal 2: Advance water quality monitoring, enhancement and improvement efforts.

• Goal 3: Promote smart, efficient water use and conservation.

• Goal 4: Increase awareness and stimulate interest in the watershed.

• Goal 5: Offer educational opportunities and informational resources to watershed stakeholders.

• Goal 6: Inform planning and decision-making with unbiased, fact-based information.

• Goal 7: Create partnerships and collaboration among stakeholders.

• Goal 8: Manage the organization and finances effectively and efficiently.

Seven projects were selected as priority undertakings to effectively address the plan’s identified goals. Projects identified include specific efforts that can be initiated based on the council’s research, as well as methods to promote greater community support to fulfill the plan’s goals.

Additionally, five strategies have been outlined describing external processes where the council and its stakeholders can provide assistance to existing agencies to foster greater community effectiveness. Identified agencies include local and regional municipalities, the local Colorado Basin Roundtable and the Garfield County Water Forum, among others.

Implementation of the projects and strategies identified in the plan are intended to begin over an estimated five-year time frame, with monitoring and evaluation of each measured against the initial goals of the plan.

Now that the framework has been developed, it is up to the community to show that watershed health is a priority. Watershed planning can be an incredibly beneficial tool, outlining steps that can be taken to not only improve the ecological health of the watershed, but also improve the economy and social wellbeing of all residents.

We all can take the time to inform ourselves of our water resources and the current issues facing our watershed. The first step is complete, and we are on the way to ensuring the long-term sustainability of our precious resource.

Dan Ben-Horin is a watershed specialist for the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, which works to evaluate, protect and enhance the health of the Middle Colorado River Watershed through the cooperative effort of watershed stakeholders. To learn more, and find a copy of the Middle Colorado River Watershed Plan, go to http://www.midcowatershed.org. You can also find the council on Facebook at http://facebook.com/midcowatershed.


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