Words from the director
Welcome to the "Water Planning News," the newsletter for participants
in Wyoming's water planning feasibility study.
Mike Besson, Director
Water Development Commission
As director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission, I want to take a
few paragraphs to explain what we're doing in the area of water planning,
and to encourage you to continue to participate in the planning process.
As you may know, the Water Development Commission and the State Engineer's
Office have been directed by the Legislature to prepare a report for updating
the 1973 Framework Water Plan.
Why is a new plan needed?
A lot of things have changed since the last water plan was written.
Wyoming needs current information in each river basin in the state to
efficiently manage existing water resources, and to develop currently unused
water. Good decisions on issues such as protection of existing water
rights, water conservation and reuse, instream flows, and the role of water
in economic development require that policy makers have accurate data to
work with. Wyoming must plan now to have the water we need to meet
The state also needs better data so water managers can respond to the
requirements of federal laws like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean
Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. These laws and accompanying
regulations weren't even in existence in 1973 when the last water plan was
Population growth and other demands in downstream states like Nevada
and California may have those states looking at Wyoming water allocations.
We need solid facts and sound planning to protect and manage our current
supplies. Other western states have aggressive water planning programs in
place. Wyoming doesn't.
The Wyoming Legislature recognized these needs when they authorized
the Water Development Commission and the State Engineer's Office to
conduct a feasibility study to determine the cost and the best methods to
use in implementing a new water planning process.
To insure that all water interests are represented, we have established a
Scoping Group with representatives from state agencies with water or related
land use responsibilities. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Public
Lands, Game and Fish, Environmental Quality, and the State Engineer's Office
are represented on the scoping group.
We plan to form Basin Advisory Groups and hold public meetings to encourage
individuals and private interest groups to participate in the process.
We are scheduled to present the results of the study and recommendations for
water planning implementation to the Legislature in 1999.
Survey results to be available soon
One of the first activities of the current water planning feasibility study
was the development of a survey questionnaire which was sent to over 1750
A mailing list in excess of 3,500 names was developed from a variety of
sources, and each person on that list was invited to participate in the
survey and to nominate others to receive the questionnaire.
Ultimately, 1,779 surveys were mailed out, and as of November first, 1,399
had been returned. The questionnaire was administered by the Survey Research
Center (SRC) at the University Wyoming. The SRC provided WWDC with the
tabulated results, but made no interpretation of the data.
The results of the survey will be mailed out to everyone on the current
mailing list (approximately 1,780). If you received a questionnaire, you
will get a copy of the results whether or not you returned your
Anyone wanting a copy of the results may contact the Wyoming Water
Development Commission at 307-777-7626.
History of Wyoming's water planning process
The Wyoming Water Development Program, which is administered by the Water
Development Commission, was created by the 1975 Wyoming Legislature.
The Commission, created by separate legislation in 1979, is charged with
responsibility for "...the planning, selection, financing, construction,
acquisition, and operation of projects and facilities for the conservation,
storage, distribution and use of water, necessary in the public interest to
develop and preserve Wyoming's water and related land resources."
The Water Development Program evolved in response to the expressed needs of
Wyoming citizens. Project feasibility studies and project construction
became the program focus. The program has been project-driven, responding
to applications to assist entities in meeting water supply needs. Only
rarely was a state-sponsored project initiated to address long range
planning issues. These projects were often development oriented - an
inventory of water use, an identification of water availability, and
potential reservoir storage sites.
The Water Development Program has been very responsive to the water supply
needs of Wyoming citizens. As of the 1997 legislative session, the
Commission has provided direct project assistance to 180 public entities -
municipalities, water districts, irrigation districts, joint powers boards,
counties and public entities.
Since the formation of the first Water Planning Program under the State
Engineer's Office in 1967, the responsible management of the state's water
resources has become increasingly complex. Federal legislation such
as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water
Act, and the regulations generated by agencies administering these acts have
greatly increased the time and money required for project implementation,
and in some cases, have blocked or significantly altered water projects
proposed by the state.
Instate water issues such as conservation and reuse, protection of existing
water rights, security for agricultural uses, instream flows, the role of
water in economic development, domestic and municipal water uses, and
industrial water projections will also be addressed in the water planning
Water management technology has also exploded in the last 20 years.
Geographical Information Systems, remote sensing techniques, and computer
modeling capabilities were not available to the past generation of water
planners. The availability of these tools to today's resource managers
presents opportunities to conduct sophisticated water planning to assure
that Wyoming citizens will have an adequate supply of good quality water
when and where they need it, and that other resources are not significantly
degraded by those uses.
The last Wyoming Framework Water Plan was published in 1973. While still a
valuable resource, technological advances and changing political and
regulatory conditions in water resource management indicate that Wyoming
would benefit from implementation of modern water planning process. In
1996, the Legislature directed the Water Development Office and the State
Engineer's Office to prepare a report which was to document the resources it
would take to update the "Framework Water Plan."
A report was developed by the two agencies and submitted to the Water
Development Commission, the Select Water Committee, and Governor Jim
Geringer in October of 1996. In the 1997 legislative session, the
Water Development Office received an appropriation of $250,000 to conduct a
two-phase feasibility study to develop strategies for addressing both the
technological components of a modern water planning process, and the
parallel development of public participation in the planning effort.
This effort was launched shortly after the 1997 Legislative Session with the
formation of Scoping and Work groups to advise the WWDC-SEO planning team
and provide technical expertise as necessary. The parallel processes of
technological review and public participation began with the planning team
reviewing water planning work in other states and consulting with experts
in various fields such as remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems,
water resource modeling, etc.
The 1997 Omnibus Water Bill stipulated that the University of Wyoming would
provide assistance during the feasibility study. The Wyoming Water Resources
Center at the University of Wyoming is providing staff assistance, and is
under contract with WWDC for technical assistance including the completion
of a state-wide data inventory.
Meanwhile, the scoping group focused on the first phase of the Public
Involvement Component by identifying over 3500 individuals who had in some
way indicated an interest in resource management. These individuals were
sent a letter requesting their participation in the process. About 1200
responded expressing interest, and an additional 350 were nominated to
participate. On September 8, over 1750 survey questionnaires were sent to
these individuals asking them to identify and prioritize water planning
A second copy of the survey was sent to non-respondents on October 6.
WWDC has received over 1750 completed questionnaires. The Survey Research
Center at the University of Wyoming has tabulated results and released a
preliminary summary report which is covered in an article elsewhere in this
WWDC selects Bear River Basin for feasibility
The Water Development Commission has selected the Bear River as a
demonstration project basin to be addressed in the feasibility study.
We believe that a feasibility demonstration project is a critical component
of the planning process. A demonstration project will serve the following
The planning team also believes it is important to have sample product to
accompany the recommendations to be presented to the Governor and Legislature
- Identify costs of obtaining and benefits of using various types of data
including remote sensing technologies, aerial photography, satellite
imagery, data interpretation software, and water resources modeling
- Determine the effects of data availability and of the use of various
alternative technologies on the costs of implementing the planning process.
- Allow the planning team to adjust resource needs and process schedules
in advance of proposing a planning process to the Governor and the 1999
- Gain feedback and provide for public involvement through the formation
of basin advisory groups, and the use of other outreach and public
- Test planning assumptions "on the ground" by working towards an actual
- Develop a demonstration product for presentation to the public, and to
the Governor and Legislature.
- Encourage participation of interest groups and state agencies to develop
a comprehensive planning approach.
- Serve as a tool to raise the profile of the planning process and create
the opportunity to develop consent among various water users and water
interest groups for the implementation of the planning process.
The Bear River Basin was selected using the following criteria:
Overriding suitability issues. Certain basins were eliminated from
consideration because of lawsuits, Tribal negotiations, difficult interstate
issues, or compact considerations.
Availability of data. Since the feasibility study has a limited
budget, a basin where data in a GIS format are already available would allow
a more comprehensive and sophisticated sample product to be developed. Some
basins which are data rich may be eliminated for other reasons, and some
data acquisition may be necessary to determine costs, benefits, and
compatibility of various technologies and data bases.
Probability of a "successful" demonstration product. One important
reason to do a demonstration product is to learn from mistakes, so
"successful" is not the same as universally accepted. The basin selected
should fairly test all aspects of the proposed planning process, including
Representative of other basins. Each of the seven major river basins
in Wyoming has its own unique characteristics in regards to hydrology,
interstate issues, demographics, and economy. Our research finds that
water issues are fairly consistent from basin to basin and even state to
Basin size and hydrologic complexity. Budgetary constraints may
limit the amount of work that could be completed in a large, complex basin
like the Green River. A smaller basin is more likely to yield a complete
product which can be fairly evaluated by the Governor and the Legislature.
Feasibility work in the Bear River Basin will begin with the identification
of a basin coordinating group, public meetings and a basin data inventory
Anyone interested in participating in the basin group should contact the
Water Development Commission at 777-7626.
What the water planning process could do...
Give Wyoming the tools to manage our water for the benefit of all users, and
to put us on equal footing with other states in the West.
Unite Wyoming water users and water interest groups to respond to external
influences on water management decisions
Create a water information data base with timely and accurate information
which can be used to defend the State's apportionments and allocations
Provide Wyoming citizens with a forum for discussion of water issues
Make water information available in a variety of formats for planning and
Offer a fresh perspective and a new approach to solving old problems
The process will proceed under current state water law and the prior
And what it won't...
The process won't change the prior appropriation doctrine or state water
The process won't change the way water management decisions are made, nor
will it change the people who make those decisions.
The process won't favor one water user at the expense of another
The process won't affect existing individual water rights
Want more information on the water planning process?
The Water Planning Team can provide information on the water planning
process in several formats.
If you did not receive this newsletter directly, you can ask to be placed on
the mailing list for future publications.
Your group can request that a member of the planning team attend one of your
meetings, make a presentation about the planning process, and respond
directly to your questions.
If you want a copy of the results of the survey, and did not get a copy of
the original questionnaire, you can request a copy.
If you want any of these services, or have any other questions or comments,
Wyoming Water Development Commission, 4th Floor, Herschler Building,
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002 or call 307-777-7626.