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Report: Montana in “Hot Water” Over Water

August 29, 2007

Helena, MT – Drought in Montana? Get used to it. That’s the gist of a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council that details traditional water management practices and policies in Montana and throughout the West, and explains why changes are necessary in order to stretch shrinking water resources. Report coauthor Barry Nelson says climate change gets most of the blame for dwindling water resources.

"Every water engineer in the West has been trained to expect that rivers in the future are going to behave the way rivers have in the past. We now know that that isn’t true, and it really means we need to think differently about water issues."

Nelson suggests Montanans can take steps to help the situation, such as switching to low-water-use landscapes, and reducing the pollution linked to climate change.

"We think one of the things water managers need to do around the West, and people concerned about water supplies, is recognize this connection to our water resources and get involved in the efforts to curb global warming."

Nelson says cooperation between Western states is another important key to allocating water fairly. He admits that’s a challenge, because Western states are very possessive about water resources. Currently, Montana is suing Wyoming over coalbed methane water.

The full NRDC report, "In Hot Water: Water Management Strategies to Weather the Effects of Global Warming," can be accessed online, at

Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MT