Voice of the River

Water Forum Identifies Shared Water Resource Management Priorities

BY KAREN FILIPOVICH, PROFESSIONAL FACILITATOR 

The Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum (Water Forum) started setting goals to guide the future of water resources management. On January 12, stakeholders met to begin to identify common desired outcomes. Designated Water Forum stakeholders and additional members of the community expressed perspectives on water resources outcomes and identified themes that represent major values and considerations as the group moves forward.

The stakeholders have built a strong foundation of shared knowledge of information related to water resources, the Big Sky community, and downstream stakeholders. Notes and videos from past meetings are available on the project resources page. At the January meeting, stakeholders identified further useful information and more ideas for options that will be analyzed once the group agrees on water resources management goals.

Building on this foundation, stakeholders have now turned toward the collaborative development of goals for community water stewardship. In January, participants were asked to identify worst case outcomes if the Water Forum does not agree on a unified approach and best cases if the effort is successful.

The group described a wide variety of possible fears associated with failure including degradation of the environment, limited drinking water supplies, lack of capacity to effectively deal with future wastewater treatment and disposal needs, economic and community failures in Big Sky and the surrounding area, and decline in the level of trust and ability to work together. On the optimistic side, the group saw the potential for environmental enhancement, smart solutions for water supply and wastewater treatment that do not pit members of the community or those downstream against each other, economic development that benefits for everyone, and enhanced community ability to collaborate and solve challenges.

The group also identified the following themes that emerged from their discussion of best and worst case scenarios:

  • Healthy fish and wildlife
  • Economic success and healthy environment are tied together
  • Quality of life includes both social an environmental factors
  • Sense of community with the ability to direct its own future
  • Integrated approach to water resource management

The current legal constraints or opportunities was a sixth theme that was noted as a criterion important for options analysis once the group has crafted goals.

The Water Forum will be working toward creating goals for water resources management at the next meeting. Determining what outcomes are most desirable for community water resource management helps ensure that the stakeholders’ recommendations on specific strategies are those that are most effective.

The next stakeholder meeting is February 21 from 1 to 4 pm at the Big Sky Water & Sewer District conference room. Members of the public are always welcome to listen and have an opportunity to comment. Information, materials, and notes are available on the meeting page for the Water Forum.

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