SAN LUIS VALLEY — When it comes to diminishing water supplies, Jim Yahn knows what he is talking about, especially related to working with an over-appropriated system, well curtailment and the impact on a community when wells are shut off.
The similarity to circumstances in the San Luis Valley makes what Yahn has to say relevant. And that is precisely why, after hearing him speak at the 2021 Colorado Water Congress in August, Rio Grande Water Conservation District General Manager Cleave Simpson and Subdistrict No. 1 Program Manager Marisa Fricke asked Yahn to speak at the upcoming Southern Rocky Mountain Ag Conference.
Luckily for all, Yahn said yes.
Yahn is the manager of the North Sterling and Prewitt Reservoirs — a position he has held for more than 29 years — where he is responsible for overseeing the diversion and distribution of water to more than 350 farmers. The reservoirs are a source of irrigation water for approximately 70,000 acres.
It is also a position that put him on the frontline of matters when the office of the state engineer shut down thousands of wells on the South Platte in 2002, a decision that played a significant role in the formation of Subdistrict No. 1 locally.
“It was difficult to see farmers have wells shut down [and have division amongst themselves], have good farm ground dried up, and spend millions of dollars collectively to fully augment their well pumping [if they could find water],” Yahn says.
Yahn was appointed by the Governor to the Colorado Water Conservation Board to serve as the South Platte Director in 2016 where he served for five years, including one year as chairperson. Yahn has also been a member of the South Platte Basin Roundtable since its inception in 2005, serving as chair from 2009-2012. He currently serves as the roundtable’s representative to the Interbasin Compact Committee.
A registered professional engineer, Yahn received his Bachelor's in Agricultural Engineering from Colorado State University. Before his employment with the North Sterling and Prewitt Reservoirs, he worked as a private consulting engineer in Fort Collins. He is a native of Colorado and grew up on a family ranch, that used water from the North Sterling Reservoir System.
The 40th annual Southern Rocky Mountain Agriculture Conference and Tradeshow is scheduled for Feb. 1-3 at the Ski Hi Park in Monte Vista, offering three days of educational presentations and demonstrations. Visit www.ageoncferensrm.com, for more information.