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Environment & Science

Montana Lawmakers Briefed On Water Rights In Face Of Climate Change

A photo of Montana's legislative Water Policy Interim Committee is briefed on a study during a remote meeting July 13.
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Members of the Montana Water Policy Interim Committee met remotely July 13, 2020.

Montana lawmakers were briefed on a draft legislative study about water rights in the age of climate change.

Montana may continue to see years or decades long droughts amid rising annual average temperatures, according to the study presented to the legislative Water Policy Interim Committee on July 13.

Democratic state Sen. Jill Cohenour of East Helena says the report reinforces the observable effects of climate change, such as longer dry seasons and earlier snow runoff.

“We are aware of the needs of senior water rights folks and folks using water in the state of Montana and how important this topic is going to be in the future,” Cohenour said.

The study doesn’t include recommendations but details potential avenues to preserve Montana’s water supply. That includes retrofitting dams to increase water storage and rebuilding stream channels to boost aquifers.

Legislative research analyst Jason Mohr says staff will open a public comment period on the study, which is expected to be finalized in September.