More than 300 people from across Montana met in Helena this week to talk about big changes the state is seeing in water — from when it falls, to how and where it’s used, to the way Montanans value it.
The state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation hosted Montana’s first Water Summit, which Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Tribe kicked off with a blessing.
"Today we are gonna all have to come together, and be together, if we're going to make water to be what we want it to be within our state and within our country," Old Person says.
Mike Gaffke, rancher and president of the Gallatin Agricultural Irrigators Association echoed the need for water rights owners to cooperate. He says a changing precipitation regime is likely to exacerbate late season droughts and increase demand on surface water.
"If I approach water as my individual right that I'm holding onto, then I could see how change could really be scary, but if we look at ... [water] as a community commodity, then I can see the change is not nearly as scary," Gaffke says.