Trainee Anne Harney plans for drought response in the Blackfoot Watershed

Upsata Lake in the Blackfoot Watershed, shown in the picture, was one of the lakes that Harney monitored for aquatic invasive species.

Trainee Anne Harney, MS candidate in Environmental Studies, provides the following report regarding her internship.

My work with the Blackfoot Challenge during the summer of 2018 revolved around the organization’s efforts to update individual land owner drought response plans. The Blackfoot Challenge has implemented a watershed-wide drought response plan that emphasizes voluntary, shared sacrifice among all water users during periods of drought. They have also worked with land owners in the area to create individual drought response plans that outline specific water conservation techniques for the landowner. However, many of these plans are outdated and the Blackfoot Challenge wanted to update and revise these plans. To assist in this process, I helped Jennifer by researching water rights in the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s Water Right Query system and making any necessary changes to the water rights listed on the individual drought response plans. I also created an interview guide that could be used during future visits with landowners, during which changes to their water rights and projects for water conservation will be discussed. In addition, I created several communication pieces to notify landowners of the drought plan update process, which included a poster and a short letter.

In addition to this project, I also got the opportunity to experience other aspects of the organization. I was able to assist the Blackfoot Challenge’s water quality technician several times over the summer as she monitored the conditions of the lakes and streams in the watershed. These included basic water quality parameters in the streams such as flow and temperature, as well as testing the lakes for aquatic invasive species. Additionally, I sat in on board meetings and collaborative meetings to learn more about the organization’s collaborative conservation process. Through this internship, I deepened by understanding of the challenges that Montana faces in the water rights adjudication process and water conservation. The breadth of work done by the Blackfoot Challenge is extensive, and they have built strong community ties within the watershed and are highly respected. Their emphasis on community and collaborative conservation has enabled the success of many of their programs, including the drought response process.