Community Agriculture Alliance: Roundtable works to drive water policy |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Roundtable works to drive water policy

Patrick Stanko
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today

As we look out onto the white wonderland of the Yampa Valley, the recreationist sees opportunities of skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Others, like the agricultural community, see additional work of moving snow for feeding and watering of animals.

Municipalities also see the ongoing work of plowing and snow removal. What we all need to see is that that white stuff out there is the water source for the region this spring and summer. The main way that water is stored in the Yampa White Green Basin is snow and the water content of that snow.

Skiers and snowboarders love the powder of the Yampa Valley, which is formed by cold storms, but it takes about 30 inches of powder to produce an inch of water. Some water managers would like to see more heavy, wet snow, as it has a greater water content.

Even if we have a normal “three-wire winter,” it may not produce the same amount of water from year to year. Take this year for example: Ten days into January we are at 121% of the 30-year average of snow water equivalent, compared to this time last year when the basin was at 78%, even though the snow depth was similar. One storm can quickly change this data.

Water providers and managers across the west look at different dashboards from a range of governmental agencies (NOAA, USDA, NCRS, USGS) and educational institutions to predict how much water we might get this summer.

They look at the current depth and snow water equivalent to see how much water is stored in the snow. They monitor the current and forecast temperatures to watch how long that water is going to be stored in the form of snow, prior to melting or runoff.

They watch the drought monitor to adjust their forecast on how much of the water will make it to the streams and reservoirs. They also watch reservoir levels to know how much to store and release. There are many variables and challenges in water management.

Once the snow releases the water in the spring there are many people with different uses for water. People use the water for recreation to raft, float, tube and fish.

Water providers such as Mount Werner Water District and the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District fill reservoirs for water users to have it when needed or be able to release during low water flows. The agricultural community uses the water to irrigate crops that ultimately provide the food and fiber we use in our daily lives as well as the views of the green valley we are so accustomed to.

The Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable includes representatives from all water users in the region. Roundtable members include water providers, representatives from recreational, environmental, municipalities, business and industry, and agricultural communities.

They collaboratively work on water issues in the basin and drive statewide policy. To find out more about the Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable or to participate, visit

Patrick Stanko is the public education participation and outreach coordinator for the Yampa White Green Basin Roundtable.

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