“We’re all in this together” is a spirit that has long sustained the communities of Gunnison County in western Colorado. Nestled in the Rockies and surrounded by national forests, Gunnison Valley is several mountain passes removed from most other places, including the metropolitan centers of the Front Range. As breathtakingly beautiful as it is remote, the region’s geography binds its rural-agricultural and tourist communities together, forging a culture of interdependence and community spirit.
It is no surprise then that the team that came to our Growing Water Smart workshop in April 2019 was not from a single city or town but rather from up and down the valley: the City of Gunnison, the Town of Mt. Crested Butte, the Town of Crested Butte, and Gunnison County.
The progress each town and local government is making in water conservation and sustainability strengthens the entire valley.
These communities already knew the power of collaboration from creating a valley-wide economic development and prosperity initiative together. Our workshop helped participants aim their collective spirit toward water sustainability. The Gunnison County team is confronting potential future agricultural water shortages as well as challenges associated with population growth and increased tourism in the region. Each member came seeking answers for how their community can grow without using more water.
They left the workshop armed with action plans for improving water management and decision making in their communities. With the help of our funders, Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, Colorado Water Conservation Board, and the Gates Family Foundation, we committed eighteen months of ongoing support for plan implementation throughout this fiscal year. Recommendations included revising local regulations to promote water conservation and efficiency and encouraging planning processes that more thoroughly consider water resources. The progress each town and local government is making in water conservation and sustainability strengthens the entire valley.
“Building the strengths of our team through Growing Water Smart has led to true coordination and reaching our goals,” says Will Dujardin, the Town of Crested Butte’s mayor pro-tem. “A regional approach is one of the best paths toward protecting water.”
This story was originally printed in our 2020 Annual Report.
Blog Post By: Shane Stanzel, Marketing Intern