Individual Drought Planning
The Blackfoot Drought Response Plan is based on meaningful participation from water users junior and senior to the in-stream flow water right who voluntarily reduce their collective water use during drought in order to maintain critical in‐stream flows. As a matter of equity, the plan aims to include junior users, senior users, small users, and large users throughout the entire watershed. Water users participate by following individual water conservation plans, tailored to their water rights, uses and conservation strategies.
Under the Blackfoot Drought Response Plan, water right holders junior and senior to the in-stream flow water right are asked to voluntarily reduce water consumption when flows reach predetermined thresholds. Prior to development of the Blackfoot Drought Response Plan, junior water users were required to stop water withdrawals if Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks made a “call for water” in enforcing their water right. The Blackfoot Drought Response Plan offers an alternative to traditional enforcement by allowing junior water users who voluntarily conserve water or take other beneficial conservation action to potentially continue using their water. Through the basin‐wide pooling of water resources, the end goal of maintaining critical in‐stream flows during drought periods can be achieved.
The Milltown Water Right
In 2008, the State of Montana acquired an instream hydropower water right and converted it to a fisheries habitat right, managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP). This is known as the Milltown water right. With the State’s passage of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Water Compact in 2015, the State agreed to split the Milltown water right into two separate and enforceable water rights: one for the Clark Fork River and one for the Blackfoot River, which will be jointly managed by the CSKT and FWP. The priority date for both of these rights is December 10, 1904. The enforcement of the Milltown water right will begin on April 24, 2025. For the Blackfoot River, the base flow requirement will remain at 700 cfs.
For Blackfoot residents, any surface water rights junior to 1904 could be called in a drought year when the flow of the Blackfoot River at Bonner drops below 700 cfs for 3 out of 5 consecutive days. However, because of the long history of voluntary, collaborative drought management in the Blackfoot watershed, FWP and the CSKT have agreed to continue and expand the Blackfoot Drought Response Plan as the primary response to the Milltown water right.
If you have water rights that are affected by this change in priority date, Blackfoot Challenge staff can help you develop a water conservation plan for your property. Please contact Kate Clyatt, Drought Technician, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the Milltown water right: