Gallatin Valley growth has farmers concerned about water supply

Posted at 3:54 PM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:09:56-04

BOZEMAN – A recent report from Headwater Economics shows that Gallatin County has lost more open land than any other county in the state since 1990. This has local farmers worried.

Due to growth, water is a very valuable commodity in Gallatin County. Bozeman’s 2013 resource plan estimates that it can supply 57,000 citizens water. The city is projected to hit that number as soon as 2025.

With the rapid growth that both Bozeman and Gallatin County are seeing, land and water rights are becoming more and more valuable. Manhattan family farmer Walt Sales says farmers can often feel pressured to sell their land to developers because of the money being offered.

“Taking those opportunities away or forcing a certain individual into either a back against the wall or into a corner, maybe without options, in my mind is maybe not the best way to go,” said Sales.

Sales is a fourth-generation farmer who will soon pass down his land to his daughter and her family.

“It’s a great feeling but it does, as a valley and when you look at it, how having that opportunity to pass it on and continue what I think has added to this valley it does, it gives you hope,” he said.

As time ticks on, however, Sales says it is easy to become worried about having enough water to sustain a farm in the future.

“We are standing here by the river and we are worrying about how much is gonna be there, how fast is it gonna come, and you bet the growth definitely is on top of those worry lists,” said Sales.

Sales says the city, county, state and farmers are all starting to put their heads together to find a solution for this water battle in the future. He says growth is a vital part of any healthy community but it’s important to not leave the agriculture perspective out of the conversation.

Agriculture is the only Montana industry that has lost jobs since 2001.

Reporting by Mederios Babb for MTN News