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Drought conditions have eased in Bozeman—so why are there permanent watering restrictions?

Montana Drought status
Posted at 7:47 AM, Jun 22, 2024

BOZEMAN — After an abnormally dry winter, drought conditions were on the rise here in Gallatin County, but some late spring precipitation may just save us.

“There's really a whole variety of things that go into our evaluation of whether an area is in drought. Certainly, the meteorological aspects of the situation are the biggest ones,” says Michael Downey.

Downey is the drought program coordinator at the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. He tells me that labeling an area in drought is complicated and varies by location, temperature, and precipitation throughout the year. I asked Michael if Bozeman is currently facing a drought?

“We just changed our map actually, this week. So, we moved the Bozeman area out of moderate drought to abnormally dry. So, I would say that we just officially moved Bozeman out of a drought category.”

And this may come as a shock to most, considering our dry winter. But Michael tells me, these late spring conditions have been making up for the little snowpack we have.

“The southwest did really well in May, as to the Gallatin, and actually picked up some snow. It's been cool, so despite having a really low snowpack, you know, the snow hung on in the mountains a little longer than usual”.

But a lot of people are wondering, if Bozeman isn't in a drought, why do we have these permanent water restrictions that were established in 2021 after the city declared Bozeman’s first drought?

“There’s potential for a water shortage, especially in a year like this where we saw that really low snowpack. This is just good planning. This is really trying to conserve water for that—no pun intended—lack of a rainy day. The potentially dry days ahead,” says Michael.

According to Bozeman Water Conservation, the permanent watering restrictions are: even-numbered physical addresses can only water their lawn on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Odd-numbered physical addresses can only water on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. All public parks, private open spaces, and street right-of-ways can water Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And all watering must occur before 10 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

Because Michael is an advocate for water conservation, I asked what he thought of these restrictions. He told me, “Especially as Bozeman is growing, and frankly their water supply is not growing, getting a handle and getting water conservation as part of the normal routine in terms of what everybody does, is really forward thinking."

Michael says these water restrictions are a great way to conserve water moving into the future, so I asked him, “Should people be concerned about our water table being depleted?”

To which he replied, “Absolutely. That's the reality, that's the future. We're not getting more water, we're getting less water. Bozeman doesn't want to end up like Las Vegas where those water levels are just dropping every year with no relief in sight."

For more information regarding drought conditions in Montana, visit:

For information on the metrics DNRC uses to evaluate droughts on a weekly basis in Montana, visit:

And for more information on the city water restrictions, visit: