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. 

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District provides two $5,000 one-year scholarships for full-time university student(s) who are pursuing a water-related career in any major at a public university within the state of Colorado. The Colorado Water Center administers the scholarship. The scholarship provides financial assistance for one year to a committed and talented student who is pursuing a water-related career in any major at a public university within the state of Colorado. Preference will be given to juniors, seniors, or master’s candidates (with at least one year of studies remaining) in a water-related major and to residents or former residents of Northwest Colorado or students working on water research in Northwest Colorado.

The Scholarship Committee will evaluate and select the 2023-2024 award recipients for the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District. The scholarship winner will be required to send a thank you letter to the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District Board of Directors and offer to attend one board meeting during the scholarship year.

For questions related to eligibility, please contact Nancy Grice at (970) 491-6308 or 

Application Deadline: May 22, 2023


Applicants must be full-time students enrolled in a water-related major at a public university within the state of Colorado; financial need may be considered; and preference is given to students from Northwest Colorado. The scholarship provides $2,500 for the 2023 Fall term and $2,500 for the 2024 Spring term.

2022 – 2023 Award Recipients

Levi Rivers

Levi Rivers originally grew up in the Southeast where water was abundant, and oftentimes the problem was having too much of it. After relocating to western Colorado, the differences in climate between the two regions struck him and that is when he knew he wanted to go into a water-related field. Levi is fascinated with the water cycle of Colorado and how we rely on a good winter with a solid snowbase to provide for people and the landscape year-round.

Levi has a diverse professional background, including serving in the US Marine Corps for for nine years, and has a BS in Business Administration from University of West Florida. He is currently pursuing a BS degree in Civil Engineering at CU Boulder and conducts hydrological research with Dr. Joel Sholtes to assess the effects of river restoration on streams. This includes investigating long term benefits of restoration to the riparian zone, water table, and potentially aquatic life by mitigating increases in water temperature. Levi also collects data to monitor the impacts that flood events can have on the river and its discharge.

In addition to hydrology, Levi is interested in other facets of water, such as water management and water rightsWith plans to pursue a career in a water-related field, Levi looks forward to learning as much as I can regarding water because I believe it to be one of the most important resources we have.” 

Spencer Romig

Spencer Romig was a summer water commissioner intern for the State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources, where he measured water data and ensured proper water use in terms of quantity and purpose, such as irrigation and wildlife. Through the internship, he was able to apply his knowledge from engineering courses to real-world practices. He took readings from a multitude of different flow devices and did calculations to determine water usage. 

Spencer is currently earning his BS in Mechanical Engineering at Western Colorado University with faculty sponsor, Dr. Holly Brunkal. He will be transferring to University of Colorado Boulder for his final college years and is excited to learn more about engineering design projects there. 

As a lover of the outdoors, Spencer enjoys water-related field work checking flumes, headgates, and flowrates. He is looking forward to gaining more experience in watershed and water storage-related projects as a hydrologic engineer at an engineering company or organization.

2021 – 2022 Award Recipients

Kaydee Barker  

Kaydee Barker is an accomplished student researcher and community volunteer who was motivated by firsthand experience to learn about the effects of climate change and mitigation. Kaydee earned an AA in Business from Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs and balances her time between an impressive array of student organizations, classes, and research projects. She is a Western Slope native and has a personal appreciation for the value of water in Colorado communities.  

There are few people who are as passionate about the environment as Kaydee. Not only is she actively involved in environmental research, but she is also involved with several environmentally-oriented student organizations such as the Society of Women Environmental Professionals (Vice President), Watershed Club, the Society for Ecological Restoration, and Strategies for Ecology Education, and the Diversity and Sustainability Club. Outside of that, Kaydee loves outdoor recreation activities such as kayaking, swimming, and fishing.  

Kaydee has returned to school at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and is pursuing a BS in Ecosystems Science and Sustainability with a minor in Soil Science. Currently, she is working with Dr. Jill Baron, the Cortufo Soil Ecology Lab, and the Paustian Soil Lab, all at CSU. We are extremely interested to learn where Kaydee’s research takes her! 

Daniel Cleveland 

Daniel Cleveland is a seasoned engineer who has spent the past five years working extensively on agricultural water projects all around the world. Graduating with a BS in Engineering from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Daniel combines technical knowledge with a passion for natural resource work that has taken him from India to Sweden to the Philippines and three different US states.  

Daniel’s belief in the importance of effective and sustainable water management drove him to leave a successful career in engineering and devote his life to sustainable agriculture and water management.  Daniel is particularly interested in ecosystem resilience and how to ensure that watersheds can deal with ecological stress and climate change. He is currently working on restoring the land around Utterback Ranch, located just north of the Yampa River on Tow Creek. 

In order to continue working towards his career aspirations, Daniel has enrolled in Colorado State University’s Graduate Program in Ecology. Daniel spends his time working with Dr. Paul Evangelista and the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, and he hopes that his work will lead him to work to benefit those in stressed watersheds, especially watersheds that support indigenous and marginalized communities. We are excited to see where Daniel’s work takes him next! 

2020 – 2021 Award Recipients

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.