Project Active

2012 – 2013, 2015 – 2018, 2020 – present

Upper Yampa River – Stagecoach Reservoir

Reservoir releases near Steamboat Springs, Colorado benefit multiple water users and the environment during periods of low flow in the Yampa River.


Through 2022, the Stagecoach Reservoir Project has released over

billion gallons


of water from Stagecoach Reservoir to the Yampa River.

Click here for a beautiful photo story of our Yampa River project

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The Stagecoach Reservoir project benefits multiple water users, as well as environmental and recreational interests on the Yampa River in northwest Colorado. The project began with a partnership between the Colorado Water Trust, Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), and Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District (UYWCD) in 2012. During the 2012 drought, the partners worked collaboratively to execute the first ever short-term lease of water to CWCB’s Instream Flow Program in Colorado’s history. The Water Trust and CWCB leased water again in 2013 to bolster flows in the late summer through Steamboat Springs. These strategic releases benefited streamflow, aquatic habitat, hydropower generation, and recreation.

Building on the success of the short-term lease, Colorado Water Trust and its partners devised a new strategy for releasing water in 2015. With the help of UYWCD and the City of Steamboat Springs, the Water Trust switched legal tools, making releases in 2015 for municipal use by the city. To most onlookers, the results of the effort looked the same – flows were increased, fishery health was maintained, hydropower was produced, and recreation continued.

In 2016, snowpack levels were above average in the Yampa basin, but towards the end of the summer, water levels in the Yampa began to drop to dangerously low levels. The City of Steamboat Springs made the decision to release water from its own pool in Stagecoach Reservoir – the first time the City had used its Stagecoach water in such a way. When the City’s pool ran out, Colorado Water Trust again purchased water in Stagecoach that was released to benefit the Yampa River.

In early summer of 2017, the Yampa River was one of the only rivers in the state with below-average streamflow. In response, the Water Trust purchased and released water for use in CWCB’s instream flow reach and downstream use by the City of Steamboat Springs. Again in 2017, the City coordinated with the Water Trust and supported the project by releasing its own water out of Stagecoach to support healthy flows in the river.

In 2021, Colorado Water Trust and UYWCD signed a new 10-year contract for the purchase of stored water in Stagecoach Reservoir. The water supply contract, deemed for environmental, instream and recreational use, is the first long-term contract that extends beyond the temporary one-year contracts between UYWCD and the Water Trust in years past. Renewable loans through the program could allow environmental releases to bolster flows in the Yampa River for up to 15 out of 30 years if needed.

In 2022 with the new contract in place, we released 1.17 billions gallons of water to the Yampa, at times accounting for over half the water in the river between Stagecoach and downtown Steamboat Springs.

  • Photo Credits: Colorado Water Trust Staff
  • Project Partners: Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, The City of Steamboat Springs, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Catamount Metropolitan District, Catamount Development, Inc., Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, The Nature Conservancy, Yampa Valley Community Foundation, and the Town of Hayden

Use the flow dashboard below to learn about the operations of the Stagecoach Reservoir project, and just how much water has been restored to the Yampa River over the project’s lifetime. Just click or hover over the graphs below to learn more!

If you have trouble seeing the graphs below, click here

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