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water

Flooding along Rock Creek, a tributary of the Clark Fork River, near Clinton, MT, June 4, 2017.
Josh Burnham

An advisory council to the governor is considering a change to Montana's law on predicting drought conditions, following the historic 2017 fire season that caught state officials by surprise.

This time last year, Governor Steve Bullock’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee did not expect drought to be an issue for Montana in the warmer months of 2017. The committee sent their annual report to the governor last April when streamflows were high and spring rain was falling.

Panelists at the Montana Water Summit in Helena, MT, March 7, 2018. From the left: Leon Szeptycki, Marco Maneta, Patty Gude, John Tubbs.
Nicky Ouellet

More than 300 people from across Montana met in Helena this week to talk about big changes the state is seeing in water —  from when it falls, to how and where it’s used, to the way Montanans value it.

The state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation hosted Montana’s first Water Summit, which Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Tribe kicked off with a blessing.

If this doesn't look familiar, you probably don't live in Montana
Nicky Ouellet / Montana Public Radio

  (Editor's note: This story was updated on Friday, March 9th. Details are noted at the bottom of this post)

Montana’s snowpack was well above average during December and January.

That’s according to the latest statewide water supply report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Bozeman office.

So did the good news continue in February?

Algae growth is increasing on Montana’s famed Smith River and scientists don’t know why. So, they’re turning to the public for help.

Excessive algae can deplete oxygen and alter water pH levels, harming fish and other aquatic life in the process. Algae blooms are also a nuisance to humans who encounter them on rivers and lakes.

Montana Sub-Basin Snow-Water Equivalent, Feb. 1, 2018.
USDA NRCS

Montana continues to be the only western state where all basins have snowpack that is at least near-normal for this time of year. On Wednesday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman released its second water supply outlook report of the winter.

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