A pilot project underway along the Price River is intended to deliver more than 750 million gallons of water savings every year.
The purpose of the pilot program is to explore and learn about the effectiveness of temporary, voluntary, and compensated measures to reduce water use that could be used, when needed, to help maintain water levels in Lake Powell above the elevations needed to protect Colorado River compact entitlements and maintain hydroelectric power production.
Eight farmers associated with the Carbon Canal Company, which delivers water to irrigators in Carbon and Emery counties, are engaging in the System Conservation Pilot Project (SCPP).
The program enables participating farmers to voluntarily reduce their consumptive use in exchange for compensation. From fallowing to crop switching, their efforts will reduce water use while enhancing river flows.
“Farming is part of Utah’s rich cultural history and an important economic driver,” says Kevin Cotner, Carbon Canal Company president and local farmer. “It’s essential to protect our way of life and our livelihoods. Farmers and ranchers play an integral role in discussions about water conservation and shortages in the Colorado River. We’re part of the solution.”
Price River is a tributary of the Colorado River. The Colorado River Basin provides water to 36 million people and irrigation for 5 million acres of agricultural land. It also fuels a $26 billion-dollar recreational industry and diverse wildlife and fish found nowhere else in the world.
TNC’s Colorado River Agriculture Director, Aaron Derwingson, has been working on a similar project with farmers in the Grand Valley in western Colorado. “This approach is a win-win. Farmers have the flexibility they need to be successful while keeping more water in the river for people and nature.”
Trout Unlimited is focused on improving watersheds to ensure fish can survive in the face of climate change.
“We’re thrilled to lead this effort,” says Jordan Nielson of Trout Unlimited. “Collaborative efforts help ensure our waterways are healthy for fish to thrive.”
The Nature Conservancy brings people to the table to protect land and water, so people and nature can thrive. “If no collaborative action is taken to mitigate the effects of the drought, every sector is at risk – you, our food, energy, recreation and fish,” adds Sue Bellagamba, Utah’s Nature Conservancy Canyonlands Regional Director. “We’ll be working with our partners to monitor the success of this project. If it’s successful, we can increase the scale truly making a difference.”
The SCPP launched in 2014 to test approaches that could help address risks associated with declining reservoir levels at Lakes Mead and Powell.