Water Sources and Uses in Wyoming
With today’s drought situations, it is more important than ever to be aware of the water sources in Wyoming as well as the various uses of the water and the amount of usable water that is available compared to the amount that must be used. This paper will not only inform about those uses and numbers, but also the highly debated HB 19 bill and the four major river basins in the western part of the country that supply Wyoming with it’s water. We will be talking about where and how Wyoming gets most of its surface water every year. Along with surface water, groundwater is also an important supply of water to the area which we count on for the environment, and it is important to try to conserve as much of this moisture as we can.
The main water supply for Wyoming consists of four major river basins the Missouri-Mississippi, the Green-Colorado, the Snake-Columbia, and the Great Salt Lake. Wyoming is supplied with all of these supplies because of its placement on the Continental Divide. The Missouri-Mississippi results in 72 percent of Wyoming drain because of the Yellowstone, Wind, Bighorn, and Shoshone Rivers in the Northwestern part of the state. The Northeastern area is covered by the Tongue, Powder, Belle Fourche, Cheyenne, and Niobrara Rivers. While the Great Salt Lake provides only 2 percent of the water in Wyoming, the Green and Snake Rivers off of the Columbia River provides 17 percent of the supply.
Reservoir storage is crucial in maintaining available water for use throughout the summer by storing the snowmelt each year, which accounts for 70 percent of Wyoming’s entire water supply and allows for 1.9 million acre-feet of new water flowing into the state each year. All of these still waters along with waters within the natural streams, springs, and lakes that are within the state boundaries are the sole property of the state as declared by the Wyoming Constitution. However, Wyoming may only legally consume 6.4 million acre-feet annually because of various other laws such as interstate water rights which ensure that rivers and streams are not depleted by users upstream, but that people downstream will have water also (Wyoming’s Water Resources).
There isn’t much to say about groundwater. It is found throughout the state in alluvial aquifers and bedrock aquifers. Alluvial aquifers are estimated to contain 10 million acre-feet of water and bedrock aquifers are estimated to store around 3 billion acre-feet. The ability to extract water from these sources depends highly on the factors of cost of recovery and the rate at which the water can reenter these aquifers ( Wyoming’s Water Resources).
In the year 2003, legislature considered a bill known as HB 19, which was to allow temporary transfer of existing water rights for maximum use in the state. This means that cities and towns would be allowed to temporarily put a hold on water rights so that they could use the water for municipal uses....