Headwaters forests provide over 60% of the American West’s water supply and they are in grave danger.
Catastrophic wildfires, a changing climate and past management decisions have hurt the forests’ ability to provide clean water to millions of people.
Today leaders around the region are pioneering innovative ways to build resilience back into our forests through watershed restoration and source water protection. More resilient forests give us a more resilient water supply.
Carpe Diem West leads the Healthy Headwaters Alliance, a coalition of water utility managers, conservationists, public agency staff, scientists, community advocates and businesses.
Together, we guide and connect successful efforts around the region to multiply their impact and tell the stories of successful source water protection efforts and spreading these innovative approaches.
Deputy Regional Director and Senior Director, Western Water - National Wildlife FederationMore
National Director for Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air, Rare Plants, and Subsistence in Alaska - US Forest ServiceMore
Environmental Supervisor, Watershed Protection and Property Management - Eugene Water & Electric BoardMore
We are developing a new understanding of where water comes from - not from the streams, but from the forest.
- Ron Lehr, President Denver Water Board (1993-1999)
Watershed Investment Programs in the American West
This report provides more complete and up-to-date information on existing watershed investment programs across the West, identifies some communities and watersheds that could be fertile ground for new programs, and discusses some fundamental questions that merit careful consideration by policy makers, water utilities and public land managers as these programs develop and expand in the future. November 2011Download
Success Story! Santa Fe, NM - Sustaining the Watershed
More than a third of the municipal water supply for Santa Fe’s 80,000 residents comes from the Santa Fe River, which flows from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just east of town. Most of the river’s watershed lies in the Santa Fe National Forest, including 10,000 acres within the Pecos Wilderness Area. Threats to watersheds come in many forms, but in the Southwest the one that rises to the top of the list is catastrophic wildfire. A series of large-scale fires has struck the region’s ponderosa pine forests recently: the 48,000-acre Cerro Grande fire in northern New Mexico 2000, two fires in eastern Arizona— the 468,000-acre Rodeo-Chediski fire in 2005 and the the 538,000-acre Wallow Fire in 2011—and the 150,000-acre Las Conchas Fire, which burned 60 percent of the Bandelier National Monument in 2011.Download
Success Story! Denver, CO - Seeing the Forest for the Water
Denver’s skyline features the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains, which provide essential drinking water supplies to this large and fast-growing metropolitan area. The Forest Service describes the Colorado Rockies, which form the headwaters for seven major U.S. river systems as the nation’s water towers. The forested watersheds that are the heart and soul of those water towers are at increasing risk from catastrophic wildfires on a scale far beyond what they experienced under natural conditions. Fuel buildup, from century of fire suppression and in some cases infestations of bark beetles resulting from a warming climate mean that Colorado’s forests are primed to burn. Oct, 2011Download
Success Story! Eugene, OR - Giving Back to the Watershed
The city of Eugene, Oregon, is located in the scenic McKenzie River Valley at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers. The 200,000 residents of the Eugene metro area depend on the McKenzie River as their sole source of drinking water. About three-fourths of the watershed is in public ownership (mostly National Forest land), but most of the valuable riparian corridors are private—devoted largely to farms and forest products. As the agency responsible for delivering clean water to residents of Eugene, the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) takes a long view of watershed health. EWEB Drinking Water Source Protection Coordinator, Karl Morgenstern describes it simply: “Utilities have to look ahead 50-100 years, and that means looking at the impacts of climate change”. In the McKenzie watershed, those privately held riparian lands will provide valuable buffers against flooding, erosion, increased water temperature, and other expected changes, but only if they remain essentially undeveloped. Oct, 2011Download
Healthy Headwaters Fourth Leadership Convening Summary - Oakland, CA
Carpe Diem West’s fourth Healthy Headwaters convening was held in October, 2011. An invited leadership group from water utilities, conservation NGOs, government, and the scientific community addressed emerging issues arising in their work to create resilient watersheds and water security in the American West in a time of climate change.Download
Healthy Headwaters Third Leadership Convening Summary - Denver, CO
Carpe Diem West's third Healthy Headwaters Leadership convening was held on March 25, 2011. The convening summary focuses on how Carpe Diem West can support successful headwaters programs across the West, and strengthen its unusual alliance of leaders that form the core constituency for headwaters protection.Download
User Contribution Programs - Linking Upstream Watershed Health to the Hearts, Minds & Wallets of Downstream Water Users
This Carpe Diem West Report provides a snapshot look at some leading Western examples of user contribution programs. These are innovative approaches that cities, utilities, and resort owners are employing as a means of having downstream water users help pay the cost of managing the health of the upstream watersheds that supply them with reliable supplies of clean water. October 2010Download
Literature Review - The Economic Value of Water and Watersheds on National Forest Lands in the US
Prepared for Carpe Diem West's September 2010 Healthy Headwaters meeting. Alison Berry/Sonoran InstituteDownload