Navigating Our Course Through Uncharted Waters

Originally published in Explore Big Sky, August 4 – August 17, 2017

Like many of you, my summer has been filled with memorable adventures on the Gallatin. Our family spends almost every day on or near the beautiful rivers and streams in our area, whether it is enjoying beautiful vistas along trails near our home in Ramshorn; fly fishing for golden trout while backpacking; or exploring every bend in the Gallatin during early season float trips.

Many people take our clean rivers and drinking water for granted, but our water is a fragile, limited resource. Our residential and visitor populations along with wastewater disposal needs are growing, but our water supply is not. Drought and climatic variability mean our water will at times be in shorter supply, with potential impacts to water quality, fisheries, and human needs.

Effective water management in Big Sky is complicated by the lack of central authority and the many disparate entities overseeing water supply and wastewater treatment systems. We live in the headwaters of the Madison and the Gallatin watersheds. Our decisions affect both Big Sky and downstream communities.

Fortunately, a group of some of the most knowledgeable water experts in Montana are helping to solve our water challenges. Thirty-six individuals, representing diverse entities, are participating in a local planning effort called the Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum, which is focusing on ecological health of the river systems, water supply and availability, and wastewater treatment and reuse.

The Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum has a vision for Big Sky to be a model mountain community for water resource management. I have spent the last 15 years researching and advocating for the Gallatin River, and as a community member, executive director of the Gallatin River Task Force, and stakeholder in the Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum, I have never been so optimistic about the future of water in Big Sky.

Successfully achieving this vision will require strong community engagement. When the Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum reconvenes in the fall, we want to present as much community feedback as possible to identify opportunities and recommend actions to manage our local water resources most effectively.

The Task Force will solicit feedback this summer and early fall through presentations in Big Sky and in downstream communities. In addition, community members can give feedback through a survey.

This is your opportunity to make a long-term, positive impact! Help us protect our rivers and improve fish and wildlife habitat for future generations.

Sincerely,

Kristin Gardner

Executive Director, Gallatin River Task Force

Photos by Rich Addicks and Dave Pecunies

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