By Emily Casey, Water Conservation Program Manager
Echoing Montana’s “Best in the West” snowpack, Big Sky sits at 142% above average, putting drought and wildfires of last summer to the back of our minds. When things are going well, why should we think about future hazards? We aren’t experiencing a drought now, so why should we plan for it?
Droughts creep up on us; we can’t easily see them coming or recognize all their far-reaching impacts. Take last summer’s flash drought. In the western part of the state, a good snowpack didn’t prevent a rapid and intense onset of dry conditions. And, just a few months later, summer wildfires burned over 1 million acres across Montana.
Sheltered from severe impacts of drought last summer, Big Sky still remains vulnerable to drought conditions and their impacts. Groundwater resources, drinking water supplies, economic prosperity, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat are just a few sensitive areas that may be widely disrupted by droughts. For example, 77.1% of respondents expressed concern or high concern for available public water supplies during drought periods in a local survey gauging drought awareness conducted in 2017.
So, when drought creeps up on us, how can we be ready?
The Task Force’s Upper Gallatin Water Supply/Drought Focus Group is a local planning effort working to do just that. We host meetings that examine community needs and experiences of drought which help discern management strategies for our watershed. We need your input; join us on February 21st 9 AM at the Sewer District’s conference room.