John Fetcher Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District Scholarship

Rafters on the Yampa River

The Colorado Water Center partners in supporting the John Fetcher Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District Scholarship each academic year.

This scholarship is for students at a public university within the state of Colorado and provides financial assistance for one year to committed and talented students who are pursuing a water-related career in any major. Preference will be given to juniors, seniors, or Masters candidates with at least one year of study remaining; to residents or former residents of Northwest Colorado; and to students working on water research in Northwest Colorado. Financial need may be considered. Half of the scholarship will be awarded for the Fall 2020 term and half for the Spring 2021 term.

The application period for the 2020 John Fetcher Upper Yampa Scholarship has closed. Please check back in Spring 2021 for more information.

For questions related to eligibility, please contact Nancy Grice at (970) 491-6724 or

2020 – 2021 Award Recipients

Sierra Mitchell, Graduate Student, Environmental Science Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Sierra Mitchell

Throughout her undergraduate education at Colorado Mesa University, Sierra Mitchell became heavily involved in water. As a research assistant at the Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center, she gained experience in the science and policy of the Colorado River Basin.

Sierra contributed to a project designing scrubbers to remove selenium from irrigation water before it enters the river’s ecosystem which she presented at the Upper Colorado River Basin Forum in November 2019. Working with engineering professors, Sierra analyzed snowpack on the Colorado National Monument and the Grand Mesa. Their research seeks to quantify the impacts of aridification and other environmental changes in the region. Sierra will begin her graduate studies at the Colorado School of Mines this fall.

Sierra plans to become a hydrologist for a state or federal government agency. She explains in her application “the further I was into my degree the more I realized how intertwined policy and the environment really are.” She sees how valuable her combined expertise in science and policy will be for her future career.

Tanya Petach

Tanya Petach describes her interest in water, “Colorado water management is awash with creative ideas, novel implementation, and bold decision making”, and it is clear how her work and career path fits right in. Currently, in her graduate research, she investigates the impact management decisions have on water quality in time and space. She uses 200 million data points from across Colorado to assess which management decisions are associated with the greatest change in water quality over a 40-year period. She is comparing streams with both beneficial and detrimental changes.

Looking to the future, Tanya considers the conditions of our water resources that the next generation will face. She understands the importance of educating the youth to achieve sustainable solutions. During the summers, Tanya works with the Headwaters Alliance running a week-long acid mine drainage camp for elementary-age children, and she teaches fourth-graders by conducting hands-on water labs.

Tanya is continuously learning and striving to better understand the complex system of water in Colorado. Networking at local events such as workshops at the Getches-Wilkinson Center at CU Boulder and attending stakeholder watershed meetings gives Tanya valuable experience to further her understanding of how engineering connects with the larger picture of Colorado water management.

Tanya Petach, Doctoral Student, Environmental Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder and Graduate Research Fellow, National Science Foundation