How much water can you take from a stream? :an analysis of water withdrawal for snowmaking purposes

Heller, George
Mitch Thomashow
Department of Environmental Studies
Water withdrawal from streams for the purpose of making snow is a contentious issue. Ski area operators feel the need for more snow making capabilities, requiring access to increasing amounts of water. In opposition are others who feel strongly that the resulting water withdrawals are excessive, compromising the natural qualities and integrity of streams. Fueling the debate, at least in Vermont, is the lack of an in stream flow policy at the State level. My intention with this paper is to form some guidelines for a State policy specifically governing water withdrawals and minimum stream flows. In order to do this, I examined a water withdrawal controversy at Okemo Mountain Inc and used it as a representative case study. In order to address the issue and its important components, as determined by people involved in the decision making process, I interviewed individuals representing all facts of the official debate. The aspects of regulation to be discussed include: Flow parameters, degradation of habitat, establishment of need, citizen participation, flexibility, consideration of conflicting uses. The resulting recommendation for regulatory guidelines is a synthesis of ideas and concerns expressed during the information gathering process.

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