Operating Criteria of the
Wyoming Water Development Program

C. Water Resource Planning

The Wyoming Water Development Commission serves as the water-planning agency for the State of Wyoming. The planning aspects of the Wyoming Water Development Program establish the framework for development strategies and serve to identify and resolve water issues. The source of revenue for the planning function of the program is Water Development Account No. 1.

1. Basin Wide Plans -- The program serves to develop basin wide plans for each of the state's major drainage basins. These plans identify water supply problems, water quality problems and development opportunities. Basin plans shall include the development of a water related database to provide data and information to developers and resource managers. Basin plans will be used to establish development and research priorities.

2. Master Plans -- Master plans provide a service to municipalities, districts and other entities to assist in the preparation of planning documents, which serve as a blueprint for future water supply system improvements. Master plans also serve as a framework for the entities to establish project priorities and to perform the financial planning necessary to meet those priorities.

In addition, master plans assist entities in preparing the reports necessary to achieve federal funding assistance for water development, flood control, erosion control, hydropower, rehabilitation, watershed improvements and other water related projects.

Sound water planning serves to promote the effective and efficient use of available water resources. Master plans provide information to users as to whether the resource can adequately service the existing and anticipated demands for water within a certain area and provides reconnaissance level information regarding costs and scheduling.

3. Research

Water development issues and problems may encompass watersheds, river basins or include the entire state. In order to address these issues, non-project specific research and data collection is necessary. The WWDC has developed a working relationship with state and federal agencies and the University of Wyoming to conduct water related research.

In addition, the legislature has assigned the Water Development Program the following research tasks:

a. Instream flow

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) selects candidate stream segments for instream flows. The WWDC files water right applications with the State Engineer for permits to appropriate water for instream flows in those segments of stream recommended by the WGFD. Further, W.S. 41-3-1004 assigns the WWDC the responsibility to generate feasibility reports for all instream flow permit applications. The reports are hydrological analyses of the water availability in the reach of the stream to which the applications apply. The analysis also quantify existing water rights above and within the stream segment.

As the water-planning agency, the WWDC also reviews the instream flow requests to determine whether they may conflict with future potential water development opportunities.

b. Groundwater Grant Program

The 1981 and 1984 Wyoming Legislatures addressed W.S. 41-2-119 which authorized the Water Development Commission to grant up to four million dollars to incorporated cities and towns for exploration programs to evaluate the potential use of underground water for municipal purposes. During the 2002 session, the Legislature appropriated an additional one million five hundred thousand dollars ($1,500,000) for the groundwater grant program and included water and sewer districts and improvement and service districts in addition to cities and towns, which were already eligble to receive groundwater grants, as eligible grant recipients. Authorized entities are eligible to receive up to $400,000 in grant funds and are required to provide 25% of the total project costs in local matching funds. The primary purpose of the program is to inventory the available groundwater resources in the state. The program also serves to assist communities in the development of efficient water supplies. Unlike other projects within the Water Development Program, funding for projects that meet the criteria of the Groundwater Grant Program can be allocated directly by the WWDC without project specific legislation.

The Wyoming Water Development Program was founded on the philosophy of utilizing a portion of the financial resources the state receives from the development and use of its non-renewable resources, such as coal, oil, and gas, to develop a renewable resource, water. The program provides long-term economic benefits to the State of Wyoming by providing information and water supply projects for the existing and future needs of the State of Wyoming and its citizens. Water availability is a key ingredient for development of a stable Wyoming economy. The projects also provide short-term economic benefits to the State of Wyoming in the form of jobs and increased material and equipment sales.

Interstate compacts and water related court decrees serve as the primary defense of Wyoming's water entitlements. However, demands downstream of Wyoming are increasing at alarming rates, as are the number of lawsuits, which may interpret the intent of those compacts and decrees. There is resistance from downstream states toward upstream development and federal laws, rules and regulations are narrowing the window of opportunity to develop water resources. However, water development plans can serve to protect Wyoming's entitlement by documenting its use in the future.i The program's criteria are based on the general philosophy that responsible development and the efficient consumptive beneficial use of water will protect Wyoming's compact and court decreed entitlements.

Operating Criteria Table of Contents
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