The first-ever White House Water Summit opens a dialogue about real solutions for drought and habitat decline
Fish require a delicate balance of adequate and timely water flows, suitable temperatures, and healthy water conditions in order to survive. When any of these factors go awry, sportsmen are shut out of fishing areas, or worse, fisheries collapse.
The current drought in the western United States highlights serious risks to fish and wildlife habitat—including rising temperatures, falling water levels, and more demand from humans than ever before—and sportsmen are seeing similar conditions across the country. Salmon in the Pacific Northwest are dying because the rivers are too low for them to make the round-trip journey from mountain streams to the ocean, and water temperatures are too high for them to survive. Algae blooms in coastal waters are depriving the water of oxygen, suffocating fish even miles offshore. The Colorado River doesn’t even reach the ocean anymore; it simply dries up after crossing the border with Mexico.
As a country, when we lose access to these places or allow habitat to decline, we’re letting down future generations of Americans. That’s why the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and our conservation partners are focused on securing water for healthy fish and wildlife habitat.
Just One Day
On March 22, 2016, in honor of World Water Day, the Obama administration hosted the first-ever White House Water Summit to start a dialogue about solutions to our water problems. Sportsmen at this event stressed the importance of securing a water future that supports fish and wildlife, while providing water to cities and farms at the same time. In fact, the TRCP delivered a petition with the names of nearly 1,000 sportsmen calling for flexible and reliable water systems so we can better weather the next drought or flood. These hunters and anglers are calling for federal officials to take action to keep rivers and streams healthy, so we continue to have places to pursue our sports.
At the summit, our Oregon field representative Mia Sheppard spoke to the crowd of 150 federal officials, state representatives, private-sector leaders, and others about the conditions she has personally experienced on the Deschutes River and why we need to act now, so her eight-year-old daughter can spend her days on the water for years to come.
The summit follows on the heels of the July 2015 White House Drought Symposium, which the TRCP helped organize. Out of those talks, sportsmen’s groups have developed 20 recommendations to help make the country more drought resilient, some of which the administration has already addressed. Notably, the administration has invested heavily in water conservation projects and prioritized flexible and voluntary water-sharing agreements, both of which sportsmen have recommended.
A Better Water Future
For months, sportsmen and conservation groups have called for a stronger response among federal, state and local agencies to protect the Colorado River and other drought-stricken waterways, and at the White House Water Summit, sportsmen chalked up another win for fish and wildlife: The administration agreed to increase coordination of federal resources and expertise to promote drought resilience. This is an important step that will improve on-the-ground—or, if you prefer, on-the-water—results and better utilize federal resources to combat drought and protect vital water resources.
The White House Water Summit was an important milestone in the national dialogue about what the federal government should do to manage our water resources. The needs of fish and wildlife have been well represented by the TRCP and its partners so that streams, lakes, and rivers stay open to sportsmen. And we’re hopeful that this dialogue will lead to a future with enough water for everyone—including the fish that help us enjoy our time outdoors.