Scientists Investigate a Decreasing Trend in Wyoming's Waterways

CASPER, WY - A study by the U.S. geological survey says they see a decrease in stream flow for areas along Wyoming’s rivers.

Scientists reviewed the findings and think recent climate changes may be the cause of the trend but at this time they are unsure of any specific reason for a decrease in Wyoming's watershed.

"Since I've lived in Wyoming for the last 25 years the fluctuation in water available, snow pack, seems to be up and down throughout that time period from year to year," said Casper Regional Wildlife Supervisor Brian Olsen.

The study says states in the Missouri river basin, including Wyoming, exhibit decreased stream flow in the last 52 years.

"The 30 years from 1971 to 2000 where we had average of around 800,000 and look at the most current 30 years where were around 700,009. I’ll let you draw your conclusion. If that means there’s a trend for decreased inflow," said Bureau of Reclamation deputy area manager Lyle Myler.

And if a trend of decreased water levels in Wyoming's waterways continues we will see it affect many aspects of our way of life.

"The decrease in water flow actually increases the water temperature and makes it difficult for fish to survive here during the summer time,” said Olsen. “Also, in the winter time, it can make it difficult for oxygen to be generated in those low flows or in those smaller ponds for fish to survive even in the winter time."

Every year there is an opportunity for replenishment of Wyoming's waterways.

"If you’ve had a wet rainy fall you get snow on the wet ground. You have the likelihood for more of that water to runoff and get in that river that we can store in one of our reservoirs for later delivery," said Myler.

So far the payoff of storing water has created a sustainable way to supply water to areas of the nation.

"We manage whatever we get, whatever mother-nature decides to give us we manage that and hopefully were at or above average for the most part," said Myler.

Within the last 30 years we have had the record low stream flow in 2002 as well as the record high in 2011.