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Nonprofit Launches Unusual Project to Combat Drought

mcconnell.franklin/ Creative Commons

Facing potential drought and lower-than-average river flows this summer, one Colorado nonprofit is launching a program it hopes will make a difference.

Today the Colorado Water Trust announced plans to lease water from willing users to boost stream flows. The idea is to take advantage of a state statute created after the 2002 drought, which allows agencies to lease water short-term from willing sellers to help preserve wildlife, fish, bugs and plants.

Amy Beatie, executive director of the Colorado Water Trust, says this will be the first time an organization has taken advantage of the 2002 statute.

“What we’re trying to do is keep low-flow streams alive during what we anticipate to be a fairly dry summer,” she says.

For example, fish in low-water flow hunker down in pools where they are more susceptible to parasitism and disease, says Beatie.

CWT is planning on purchasing water rights and initiating projects in all seven of Colorado’s river basins.

The news comes as the Natural Resources Conservation Service is predicting spring and summer stream flow volumes that will be “well below average across the entire state.” The April 2012 outlook also reported that Colorado has the lowest snowpack percentage since 2002, which caused severe drought across the state.

"We are watching the drought conditions, we understand that they could change with a big rainstorm,” says Beatie. “But we wanted to use this tool, be proactive, come up with a market-based solution to put cash in people’s pockets during what could be an uncertain summer,” she says.

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