Healthy Headwaters

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.

Join the Healthy Headwaters Alliance

Leadership Team

Mike Anderson

Senior Resource Analyst - The Wilderness Society

Sarah Bates

Deputy Regional Director and Senior Director, Western Water - National Wildlife Federation

Laura Briefer

Director - Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities

Christopher Carlson

Assistant Director for Water and Aquatic Resources, USDA Forest Service

Kim Carr

Principal, KCarr Consulting

David Edelson

Sierra Nevada Project Director - The Nature Conservancy

Charlie Ester

Manager of Water Resource Operations - Salt River Project

Todd Gartner

Senior Associate, Natural Infrastructure & Water, World Resources Institute

Sterling Grogan

Senior Advisor & Ecologist - Carpe Diem West

Rob Harper

National Director for Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air, Rare Plants, and Subsistence in Alaska - US Forest Service

Holly Hartmann

Climate Scientist

Cathy Kellon

Green Infrastructure Program Director - The Geos Institute

Karen Knudsen

Executive Director, Clark Fork Coalition

Dale Lyons

Senior Planning Consultant - Souder, Miller and Associates

Mike McHugh

Environmental Permitting Coordinator - Aurora Water

Mary Mitsos

President - National Forest Foundation

Karl Morgenstern

Environmental Supervisor, Watershed Protection and Property Management - Eugene Water & Electric Board

Marian Rice

Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities

Ann Schwend

Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation 

Jennifer Sokolove

Director of Programs and Strategy - The Water Foundation

John Shepard

Senior Director of Programs - Sonoran Institute

Steve Whitney

Senior Program Officer - The Bullitt Foundation

Rebecca Wolfe

Public Lands Team - Sierra Club

Anne Zimmermann

US Forest Service, Ret.


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)


Healthy Headwaters Policy Plaform - Updated May 2020

In this time of a rapidly warming climate, it is imperative that watershed protection work be quickly scaled up and implemented based on scientifically sound principles that will lead to more resilient landscapes. This, in turn, requires innovative federal policy and significantly higher levels of federal investments. May 2020


Looking Forward - Water & Climate Change in the American West

Billions and millions - this Healthy Headwaters Federal Policy Platform is the third such document issued we've in the past five years. May, 2020


Recommendations for Improving Forest Health, Water Protection and Wildfire Resilience

Carpe Diem West, in partnership with the National Forest Foundation spearheaded a research project in February  2019 in three locations near national forests across the rural West (Wenatchee, WA; Buena Vista, CO; and Flagstaff, AZ) in order to better understand the connections voters in these types of communities make between forest health and clean water and wildfire prevention, and to assess their willingness to support dedicating additional funding for these purposes. Focus group participants in these places valued forests for a variety of benefits they provide, ranging from the spiritual to the economic. They saw prevention of wildfires - and wildfire smoke specifically - as a compelling rationale for additional investment in forest conservation and health. Read the full report and its findings by downloading the report below. April 2019


It’s a lot of money. The alternatives are a lot more expensive.

Western forests, whether in headwaters or the region’s fruitful floodplains, are the key to water security, flood protection, and water quality. But catastrophic wildfires, a rapidly changing climate, overdevelopment and poor past management decisions means that these lands are increasingly limited in their ability to provide clean water to millions of people. Today, leaders around the American West are pioneering innovative ways to restore forests — the source of over 60% of our water. Healthier forests results in healthier water downstream. But we must invest in restoration and protection to fulfill this promise. We’ve taken a snapshot of four places around the West that have big plans. The price tag is hefty, but are economically responsible investments for long-term water security. As communities around the West take on similar investments, these regions are helping to lead the way.


Overview of Local Funding for Improving Forest Health in the West

As local concern over forest health and resilience increases with every severe wildfire summer in the West, interest grows in how local governments can engage to protect their backyard. Carpe Diem West’s partner the Trust for Public Land, just issued Overview of Local Funding for Improving Forest Health in the West. The report identifies and describes available federal grant programs and provides examples of local community expenditures to improve the health of nearby federal forests. March 25, 2019 Photo credit: Jerry and Marcy Monkman


Report Released - Breaking Down Barriers: Priority Actions for Advancing Water Quality Trading

In the recently released new report "Breaking Down Barriers: Priority Actions for Advancing Water Quality Trading.”  The report is a product of the National Network on Water Quality Trading (“National Network”), a network of diverse organizations working to advance water quality trading in the United States. This report investigates what’s keeping water quality trading on the sidelines and proposes a detailed action agenda to help get water quality trading on the ground in more watersheds across the United States. Along with this report,  The Willamette Partnership and the Association of Clean Water Administrators(ACWA) are proud to announce the release of five water quality trading policy templates. The templates make it faster and easier to develop transparent and accountable water quality trading programs that drive meaningful investment toward achieving clean water goals. The templates go along with the National Network on Water Quality Trading publication, Building a Water Quality Trading Program: Options and Considerations, to provide a blueprint for those states and organizations seeking to create a water quality trading program. October 16, 2018


Healthy Headwaters 13th Leadership Convening Summary- Portland, OR

Carpe Diem West convened its 13th convening in Portland where the Healthy Headwaters Leadership Team and invited guests came together to discuss increasing our understanding of how the climate is warming – much more quickly than we thought even a few short years ago. Accelerating our ability to communicate “VUCA” to community leaders & decision makers and what it means for the region. Assessing utility responses to homeless people and watershed protection. Understanding the role of beavers in watershed/forest health. Networking – engaging all water users – assess opportunities and challenges. And identifying new issues to track. Read the meeting summary below. March 2018


Willamette Future Project

This project identifies opportunities to align and leverage and bring to scale existing work on the Willamette River in Oregon.