Watershed planning can safeguard our future

Water in the Wet Mountain Valley. Mention it, and people pay attention.

This year is one of abundance, but every year is a crapshoot on whether our watersheds will get the snow needed to ensure an adequate supply for agriculture and residential use in Custer County. Many times, it comes down to a few key snowstorms in the spring.


The valley used to experience a dry year about every 20 years, but the weather has changed. Since 2002, we have had four very lean years of surface water supply. Wells that have never been a problem have run dry in recent years.

We cannot control the weather, but we can plan how best to use our water resources. San Isabel Land Protection Trust recently secured a Bureau of Reclamation grant to do watershed planning on the Grape and Texas Creek watersheds. The watershed planning process works within a framework of a series of cooperative, iterative steps to characterize existing conditions, identify and prioritize problems, define management objectives, develop protection or remediation strategies, and implement and adapt selected actions as necessary.

The planning requires water rights holders, including agricultural, industrial and domestic (both town and well owners), as well as recreation users, to look at watershed and aquifer management, land use and population growth and identify problematic issues – in general, produce a plan to work cooperatively on managing a shrinking resource. All interested parties need to come to the table and convey ideas and opinions to form the plan.

San Isabel will convene meetings in early 2022 to start this process. It won’t work without community engagement, so please watch for notices and join us. In the meantime, our staff will gather data about the two watersheds.

By the way, once a watershed plan is completed, it opens grant opportunities with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Healthy Soils Initiative and other state and federal entities. Let's not let a great opportunity pass us by.


Larry Vickerman

Posted in News


We have protected more than 42,000 acres through 134 conservation easements.

Conservation easements guarantee long-term protection – through generations of landowners.