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National Water and Climate Center


Adopt-A-SNOTEL Site Program
For the Western United States

Photo of Students


The Adopt-A-SNOTEL Site Program offers students in the western states the excitement of monitoring conditions at a remote SNOTEL site. With this near real-time data as a starting point, lessons in the areas of science, math, hydrology, water quality, environment, and conservation can be developed. Computer access of the SNOTEL data adds another learning opportunity.

The Beginnings

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is the USDA agency concerned with conserving soil, water, and related resources. Since the mid-1930's, NRCS has directed the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program in the western states. SNOTEL (for SNOpack TELemetry) is a near real-time hydrometeorological data collection network in the Western U.S.

SNOTEL is a key element in the cooperative snow survey and water supply forecasting program. Each day nearly 600 remote data collection sites in the high mountains of the West transmit snow, precipitation, and temperature data to a central computer facility in Portland, Oregon. There, the Centralized Forecasting System (CFS) analyzes the data and generates streamflow forecasts as well as tabular data summaries. ADOPT is a part of CFS and can be accessed by any computer equipped for communications (both modem and Internet). The system is menu-driven and designed for easy use.

NRCS conservationists have long supported the important role education plays in sustaining a conservation ethic. Various policy statements support NRCS's participation in educational activities.

The Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program recognized the teaching value of involving students in the excitement of this profession. Various activities were started--one involved adopting a SNOTEL site. Teachers at three National Science Teachers Association conventions enthusiastically responded to a proposal for an ADOPT program. It seemed like a west-wide Adopt-A-SNOTEL Site Program was in order.

Goals of the Program

The goals of the Adopt-A-SNOTEL Site Program are:

  • Make Teachers and students aware of the SNOTEL data resource collected by the NRCS
  • Encourage the development of a strong conservation ethic with respect to soil, water, and environmental resources.
  • Inspire and make students aware of disciplines and careers in soil and water resources.
  • Promote the expanded use of information collected by the NRCS.

How the Program Operates

The Adopt-A-SNOTEL Site Program is open to any class or school in the 12 western states where NRCS has a water supply forecasting program: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The request to adopt a site is sent to the NRCS State Conservationist in your state (see Natural Resources Conservation Service under USDA in the blue pages of the phone book). A brief "adoption request" form is sent to the school for completion. When the form is returned to the State Conservationist, an appropriate site is selected by the state, and an adoption certificate and a Teacher's Guide are issued. Section A of the Teacher's Guide is prepared to describe the specific site that has been adopted. Section A also names the NRCS person(s) to contact if questions or problems arise.

Computer Access Agreement Required

If the school is planning to attain data through a computer, a computer access form, which is on the reverse side of the adoption request form, must be completed by the school official. There is no cost except for the telephone charges incurred by the school for computer access to the data.

Printed Data Available

If the school does not have access to a computer, data can be requested in printed form. The standard procedure will be to mail a report each Friday covering the previous seven days.

The Teacher's Guide

Each section shown in the Table of Contents begins with an explanation of that section's purpose and organization. It is anticipated that additional activities, related topics, and materials will be identified by the participants. We plan to distribute Change Notices with revisions or additional materials as the need arises.


SNOTEL sites are located in remote areas. Casual visits to a site can be hazardous to those not familiar with the area and not properly equipped. The dangers can be intensified by sudden winter storms, avalanches, etc. Teachers should be careful not to inadvertently suggest or condone a site visit without supervision for the students. Visits at any time of the year should only be undertaken after coordination with your local NRCS office.

For more information, contact:

Bruce Newton
Acting Director, National Water and Climate Center
Natural Resources Conservation Service
101 SW Main Street, Suite 1600
Portland, OR 97204-3224
(503) 414-3107