Date of Award

5-2019

Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Natural Resources (MNR)

Department

Natural Resources

First Advisor

Chris Luecke

Second Advisor

Tom Edwards

Abstract

The Little Snake River Basin (LSRB) is a managed basin in South-central Wyoming located within the Colorado River watershed facing severe water shortages. There is increased pressure on water resource managers and agricultural producers to adopt water efficiency practices that could negatively affect wetland resources. However, studies have begun to quantify the importance of irrigation for recharging groundwater, maintaining late season instream flows, and maintaining and creating wetlands that provide wildlife habitat and ecosystem services.

In the LSRB there are 11,636 acres of wetlands; 56% of which overlap with irrigation. Conversion to more efficient irrigation could reduce water availability to an estimated 6,500 wetland acres. The high proportion of wetlands that overlap with irrigation in the LSRB suggest high vulnerability to wetland loss if producers convert to more efficient practices. Associated ecological benefits and ecosystems services could be diminished resulting in economic losses in the basin. Conservation strategies aimed at protecting wetlands and wildlife habitat may fall short of their intended purpose if water quantity and timing associate with current water management practices are also not retained.

The objectives of this report are to: Summarize information about wetland resources and land use practices in the LSRB; Discuss results from a wetland assessment conducted by the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database which identified major wetland types, condition, and indicators of disturbance in the LSRB; Investigate the economic impact of water management changes to irrigated wetlands in the LSRB, and present trends on the public perception of irrigation in the LSRB.

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