We have been experiencing first-hand changes in climate patterns and increased variability in the Yampa Valley. The basin has seen a lack of summer monsoons, historically low water levels, hot and dry conditions — throughout the year — and signs of aridification of the local and regional climate. All of these conditions are shifting us to a new “abnormal.”
Researchers are pointing to a hotter and drier Yampa Valley. Starting in November 2020, Routt and Moffat Counties have been in extreme and exceptional drought conditions. These conditions have persisted as of May 2021. The Colorado Climate Center reported August 2020 as the most extreme hot, dry months in recorded history for western Colorado. Snowpack has also been shifting. The combination of hot and dry conditions with low snowpack lead to low soil moisture levels, causing further water deficits.
All of these climatic factors will continue to affect and change the Yampa Valley.
The Soil Moisture, Water and Snow Program sits at the interface of science and community action, and strives to connect relevant research and data with increased public understanding of how water in the west is changing due to climate change and what we can do about it.
Our goal is to link education with action so that YVSC can support the community in scaling up water conservation actions across key sectors and increasing adaptive capacity and resilience to a warmer and drier Yampa Valley future. With funding from the City of Steamboat Springs, Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, and Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation, YVSC is developing a Water Conservation and Equity Education and Outreach Program to further water conservation in the community.
The Yampa Basin Rendezvous — a water-focused conference co-organized by YVSC and various partners — seeks to communicate, collaborate, discuss, and connect relevant research with members of the Yampa Basin. This conference brings together various stakeholders in the Yampa River Basin to build discussion, learn, and foster opportunities to collaboratively work to understand and adapt to a changing Yampa Valley climate.
This program is also working to connect climate change science and soil moisture monitoring data with local water managers’ needs so that our decision-making and water use patterns align with a sustainable Yampa Valley future.