Forum cultivates connections between disparate water users

The third annual Poudre River Forum, held Feb. 5 at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland, brought together more than 250 people – all who share an interest in the river that flows from the mountains west of Fort Collins to the plains east of Greeley.

Panelists discuss plans for future water use during the Poudre River Forum (Photo credit: John Bartholow)
Panelists discuss plans for future water use during the Poudre River Forum. Photo by John Bartholow

The theme of this year’s forum – “Cultivating Connections for a Healthy, Working River” – focused on two different groups of panelists. The first addressed how agriculture producers along the river might plan for a future where they compete with urban interests for water. There was agreement among the panelists that caution must be used if water is removed from agricultural production for municipal uses due to its potential impact on downriver communities.

The panel – made up of representatives of large and small agriculture producers, plus dairy and livestock operations – agreed that education, conservation and increased efficiency in how water is used will be key factors in the years ahead.

Panelists explore was of reaching consensus on complex water project during the Poudre River Forum. (Photo credit: John Bartholow)
Panelists explore was of reaching consensus on complex water projects during the Poudre River Forum. Photo by John Bartholow

A second panel discussed how it is possible to reach consensus on large, complex and controversial water projects. The panel, which included environmental, resource management and water supply interests, examined several recent case studies of cooperation including the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. The panelists said that there are two ways to approach these difficult negotiations: litigate – which is a failed approach – or listen and understand other perspectives and work to find solutions. The panelists said this can only be accomplished by breaking down preconceived notions, then rebuilding trust.

2016 Poudre River Forum - Theme
Photo by John Bartholow

The keynote speaker was Pat O’Toole, a rancher and farmer of a six-generation family operation on the Little Snake River along the Colorado-Wyoming border. O’Toole highlighted some of the cooperation he’s help to foster between environmentalists and agriculturalists.

The forum was organized by the Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group and the event was facilitated by the Colorado Water Institute, a unit within Colorado State University’s Office of Engagement.

Access videos of the complete Poudre River Forum here.