"In God we trust...all others bring data."
- W Deming & M Bloomberg
Water is an essential ingredient to Montana’s economy and rural way of life. While our demand for water continues to grow, our available water supply varies from year to year and often changes dramatically in any given year. Access to accurate, publicly available, real-time stream flow information supports decision making by water managers and water users as they adjust to seasonal supply and demand imbalances. Local governments, state, tribal and federal agencies also rely on stream flow information for emergency planning and notification as well as longer-term water supply planning. The primary source of this information is a network of 220 stream gauges operated by the U.S. Geological Survey and financially supported by 29 different sources of federal, state, tribal, local, and private funds. Information on stream flow is also available from 44 gauges operated and maintained by the Department of Natural Resources & Conservation.
The Upper Yellowstone Water Balance project is an effort to expand the quantity, quality, and usability of all types of water measuring devices, by involving the private sector, local communities, technology companies and scientists. (As an example, watch the videos to the right.) In hydrology, a water balance equation can be used to describe the flow of water in and out of a system. A system can be one of several hydrological domains, such as a column of soil or a drainage basin.
Data is regularly gathered and published online re: water quality, flows, usage and biodiversity (via eDNA and other methods). You can read more about each of these areas by clicking on any of the following links, and if you want to get involved you can sign-up to adopt your own stretch of the Upper Yellowstone watershed.
Our efforts arose in part because of the 2016 Yellowstone River fish kill and closure, which had both an ecological and economic impact on the Paradise Valley area. We know the fish died of PKD; but we don't know why (see informational FAQ). Our goal is to use the best science and technology to provide quality data and analysis to the public and engage them in the process of understanding and managing this valuable watershed. In partnership with the The Arthur M Blank Family Foundation, Gardiner School Board, North Yellowstone Education Foundation, Reedfly Farm, The Yellowstone Ecological Research Center, Flyfishing organization Guiding for the Future, Park County Environmental Council, and Trout Unlimited, we do ongoing real-time and manual monitoring on the Upper Yellowstone Watershed for the foreseen future.
In order to fund the ongoing success of our efforts, the below map provides a listing of local businesses and citizens who have adopted stretches of the Upper Yellowstone and the locations of the various monitoring sites. The goal is not just to monitor, but to use that data to manage the health of the watershed for humans and wildlife alike, both in terms of quality (e.g. temperature) and quantity (base flow rates).