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Climate and Drought

Amy Beatie, 2013 Emerging Leader Award Winner

Celebrate Amy Beatie by attending CFWE's 2013 President's Award Reception.

By Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs

Amy_Beatie_Emerging_Leader_webAmy Beatie fights drought by putting water back into parched Colorado streams for fish, wildlife and people. In the summer of 2012, when Western Slope streams were running precariously low, the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust she leads helped to hold some of the hardest-hit waters together.

“In February of 2012, the snow wasn’t catching up,” says Beatie. “In March we realized the snow wasn’t coming at all.  It looked like a bad drought would hit every basin in the state.”

In 2003, another crucially short water year, the Colorado General Assembly enacted a short-term water lease statute to aid the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s instream flow program in drought years. Because Colorado’s instream flow law wasn’t adopted until 1973, the Board’s instream flow water rights are junior, or lower in priority, to senior rights under the state’s prior appropriation system of water administration. The 2003 law allowed the temporary use of leased senior water rights to shore up those junior instream flow rights using an expedited approval process.

“The question we were facing in 2012 was whether the leasing law would actually work,” Beatie explains. “We’re transaction-oriented. Between March and May, we pushed to identify critically short stream reaches; contacted potential funders; put out bids to farmers, ranchers, and all other water users; and worked with water users to help make water available to the state’s rivers.”

With the cost of each lease varying, the Trust scrambled successfully under intense time pressure to raise money to keep the streams running by changing water rights and putting them back into the river.

“The Gates Family Foundation was our earliest investor, giving us a $100,000 one-to-one matching grant for water leases. We were able to combine that together with project seed money we had from the Walton Family Foundation,” says Beatie. “We also received $50,000 from a partnership with National Geographic and Bonneville Environmental Foundation. The city of Steamboat Springs and the Kenney Brothers Foundation supplied  $10,000 each. We got a generous anonymous donation and a number of smaller grants to keep us going. We simply could not have done the program without this funding.”

The 2012 program benefitted the Yampa, the Upper Colorado, the Lower Colorado, and the White river watersheds. Beatie also remarked that partnerships were critical to the program’s success: “Of course, the staff and members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board were indispensable. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District were also very helpful, each in very different ways.”

Beatie’s staff is lean and effective. “When our board said ‘Go’ we went to work. We have a water rights specialist who works with an aquatic biologist to identify the most critically needed water rights in the hardest-hit stream reaches. They worked with our staff attorney and field specialist to complete transactions.”

Harnessing the law for the environment brings together Beatie’s education, passion and training. Her undergraduate school is Dartmouth where she majored in religious studies. Her law school is the University of Denver; she served there as editor-in-chief of the university’s Water Law Review before clerking with the Colorado Supreme Court and practicing law with the Porzak and White & Jankowski law firms. She’s a graduate of CFWE’s Water Leaders Program.

“My greatest source of strength and joy is my home life with Declan and our 2-year old son Cormac!”


WEco Climate Resources

Guide to Colorado Climate Change presents a range of contemporary climate change information written by experts. Take a look.

Water 101 Sheets are one-page references available for download and distribution. Explore the basics of drought, and wildfire or read various water conservation tips through a series of fact sheets. Interested in additional resources? Find them herefact_sheetsClimate Workshop
Participants tour the National Ice Core Lab, hear how researchers study climate and what that means locally. Learn more.

Connecting the Drops Radio

Listen to a radio feature on climate change's effects on Colorado farmers, spring runoff, and irrigation.

  
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