By Clancy Jandreau, Blackfoot Water Steward

This year, the Blackfoot Challenge celebrates 30 years of collaborative, community-based conservation in the Blackfoot. For 22 of those years, the Blackfoot Challenge has coordinated the implementation of a voluntary drought response plan that relies on shared giving among all water users during periods of water scarcity. The shared giving idea is born of the realization that drought affects everyone and no one person can solve its harmful impacts. It is no small thing that under the current structure of western water law, a doctrine based on the zero-sum game of first in time, first in right, we in the Blackfoot are attempting to do something a bit different. Rather than simply accepting the size of the pie that we are given and divvying it up according to the prior appropriations doctrine, for the past 22 years, we have been attempting to find ways to increase the size of the pie. Where do we find the ingredients for such a pie? Its not by making more snow, doing more rain dances, or praying for cooler temperatures. We bake a bigger pie by forging partnerships, strengthening community connections, building trust, and creating shared goals. All of these intangible ingredients help us build capacity to be more flexible in how we as a community are able to respond to challenges and changes. And by doing so, we are increasing our collective ability to find the win-win solutions that make a bigger pie.

As I look around the West, I see no shortage of challenges in our relationships with water. While parts of the West are facing conditions drier than they’ve seen in 1,200 years, other areas are seeing record rain, snow, and flooding. Difficult choices lie ahead regarding allocating use among agricultural, municipal, and recreational uses while addressing the needs of fish and other species under increasing stress. Here in the Blackfoot, we are not immune to such challenges and any difference is  


largely a matter of degree rather than kind. As I contemplate these challenges, I am not naively thinking things will be easy, but I am comforted by the fact that we not only stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us to help foster a culture of shared giving, but we also stand on the shoulders of each other, our neighbors and our fellow community members. By choosing to participate and by giving what we can during times of need, we are offering a shoulder to our neighbors. In return, we are giving our communities, the river, and all those humans and non-humans who depend on it a chance to the thrive despite the difficulties we face. Here’s to baking and savoring a bigger pie, together!

To learn more, visit our Blackfoot Drought Response program pages.