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Hear experts talk Wyoming water, in Casper Oct. 16-18


October 10, 2019

Last month, there was a talk in Casper about the Namib desert in east Africa, brought to Casper by the University of Wyoming’s World to Wyoming program.

In the desert, a search for marvelous cave paintings by an ancient people became also a search for water. It was a strong reminder of how precious water is - and not just in the African desert.

Though the speaker misinterpreted some issues on the Colorado River that affect Wyoming, he rightly urged us all to pay more attention to water and water issues.

Fortunately, this month there’s an occasion in Casper to do just that.

The Wyoming Water Association is holding a conference in Casper over three days, from the afternoon of Wednesday October 16 to mid-day Friday October 18. Titled “Currents in Wyoming Water,” the conference will provide detail on an array of important water issues.

Water ties us all together – and makes us interdependent in ways we may not always recognize – as it moves through our landscape and our lives.

Towns, agriculture, power plants, oil and gas production, trona processing plants, coal mines, recreation and tourism all involve water. Sessions at this conference will introduce newcomers and update old hands on issues such as how to work with an irrigation district that has landowners with small acreage, how to get drought information, and how cities put together their water supply portfolio.

Thursday morning, there will be a panel discussing how the right to water is sometimes moved from one use to another in Wyoming – often, only temporarily, and sometimes quite informally. Many considerations are required in such a change, since other users up and down a stream could be affected. People with experience in such arrangements will lay out a variety of examples for the audience.

Agriculture uses most of the water used in Wyoming, but a good portion of the water in our streams flows to and supports people and economies in other states. That means Wyoming works with other states on the rivers we share.

Issues on the Colorado River, whose headwaters include the Green and Little Snake Rivers in Wyoming, are increasingly intriguing these days. The portion of the river in the southwestern U.S., in particularly, has seen nearly 20-year drought. Problems due to drought can ripple back up the river to headwaters states like Wyoming. Colorado River issues will get a whole afternoon of discussion on Wednesday from the Wyoming Commissioner to the Upper Colorado River Commission, former State Engineer Pat Tyrrell.

Gov. Mark Gordon will address the water issues he finds most important at a luncheon Thursday, and former Wyoming Water Development Director Mike Purcell (now a member of the Water Development Commission), will provide his long-term perspective on water at the conference banquet Thursday evening.

Friday morning will close the conference with updates by a roster of representatives from many of the agencies, state and federal, that deal with water in Wyoming: the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, the Wyoming Water Development Office, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission, the Wyoming State Geologic Survey, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The conference presents a wide range of issues that will help us all understand more about water in Wyoming. Registration is available at There’s a significant fee for the conference; lawyers and engineers who attend can get continuing education credits. College classes or individual college students can attend for free, except for meals.

For those who want to hear more detail about Colorado River issues, University of Wyoming Extension in assistance to the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office is putting on a series of free and open public meetings on evenings in early November in locations central to the various Wyoming communities that use Colorado River water. Each meeting runs from 6 to 8 pm:

Monday, Nov. 4, Pinedale, Rendezvous Pointe Senior Center

Tuesday, Nov. 5, Green River, Sweetwater County Library

Wednesday, Nov. 6, Baggs, Little Snake River Conservation District Office

Thursday, Nov. 7, Cheyenne, Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, South Gathering Room

Anne MacKinnon is a former member of the Wyoming Water Development Commission, and an adjunct professor at the University of Wyoming where she is currently part of an Extension team assisting the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office with public outreach on Colorado River issues.


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