Voice of the River

Water Forum Makes Progress Towards Identifying Big Sky’s Water Resources Goals

BY KAREN FILIPOVICH

On February 21, the Big Sky Sustainable Water Forum (Water Forum) stakeholders and several other interested members of the community discussed how best to express their joint desired outcomes for the future of Big Sky’s water resources through a statement of goals.

Participants divided into three small groups to try to craft goals for the three focus areas of the Water Forum: environmental health of the river systems, water supply and availability, and wastewater treatment and disposal. They also started to identify indicators of success that could be tracked to measure progress toward goals. Once these smaller subgroups met and came to a consensus, the resulting draft goal statements were presented to the entire group of stakeholders and public. The meeting attendees then worked to craft a set of goals from these ideas that would capture the consensus of the entire group.

The group was not able to decide on a final set of goals, but made great progress toward identifying common ground. Sustaining both natural and human communities were two central ideas. Water quantity and water quality were widely seen as intertwined with a need to protect and improve both aspects. The group agreed that innovation and setting a high bar was vital to water resource management for the Big Sky community. Local decision-making was seen as a value in an approach. Many hoped that Big Sky’s water management approach will be an example that other communities would see as a model to emulate.

None of the goal statements brought forward from the small groups conflicted with one another. However, there was discussion that the needs of the human and natural communities could be a potential source of conflict and that minimizing and proactively working to keep both communities healthy was important to keep in mind.

The group was challenged on how best to characterize the intertwined nature of the three focus areas within water resources. Discussion on other ways to describe the desired outcomes included putting the ecological health of the river systems within water supply and wastewater treatment and disposal goals or reorganizing goals around the natural community, human community, and water quality and quantity. Neither of these options appeared to clarify the desired outcomes better than keeping a focus on each of the three water resources areas. An overarching goal or vision was recommended in conjunction with goals in the three focus areas as the most useful way to clearly characterize the unified nature of water resources.

Stakeholders will work in smaller groups to refine the goals between this meeting and the next one scheduled for March 30, 2017. Water Forum members expect to discuss and finalize the goals and start working on analysis of options that could be used to move Big Sky toward the goals at that meeting.

The next Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum meeting will be Thursday, March 30th from 1 PM to 4 PM. The public is welcome to attend and listen with designated opportunities to provide public input throughout the meeting.

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