As with all states in the basin, Wyoming has been deeply involved in drought planning activities, both inter- and intra-state.
Everyone is aware of the sevenstate drought contingency planning efforts. Within Wyoming, several drought-planning measures are in progress as well. First, the State has been looking at increasing the active pool in Fontenelle Reservoir on the Green River. Fontenelle is a Bureau of Reclamation facility that the state has current rights to 120,000 AF of water of the 260,000-AF active pool. The project under consideration is to add rip-rap to the lower upstream dame face. This would make an additional 80,000 AF of water available for use, without expanding the footprint of the existing reservoir. All or part of the newly available water could be set aside to protect Wyoming water users in times of severe drought.
“Water banking” also is under discussion in Wyoming. The general concept of storing excess water in good times so it can help cover shortfalls in dry periods is essentially the same as a person’s savings account. This concept seems straightforward, but the devil is in the details relative to water law requirements, available storage facilities, costs, etc. A draft bill addressing some of these issues is currently being discussed in the Wyoming legislature. Such a bill is uncertain, but the discussion is welcome.
The State’s Water Development Office continues to work on Governor Mead’s “Ten in Ten” proposal. This idea was presented in the Governors Water Strategy several years ago and pitched the desire to build ten new water storage projects in ten years. Currently, six new projects are in some various stage of consideration—with construction started on one in the Green River Basin this past summer.
Wyoming will have a new governor in January 2019. No one knows for sure what changes that may bring, but water will certainly remain an important topic in Wyoming as it always has been.