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 Alliance Policy Platform

The Policy Platform lays the foundation for the Healthy Headwaters Alliance’s support of community-level headwater protection work, both through the effective use of existing programs and the development of new programs and policies designed to promote healthy, resilient headwaters systems. May 2012


Healthy Headwaters Fifth Leadership Convening Summary - Phoenix, AZ

Carpe Diem West’s Healthy fifth convening was held on On April 27, 2012.  An invited leadership group from this stakeholder network addressed crucial emerging issues in creating resilient watersheds and water security in the American West in a time of climate change.


Testimony Before the United States Congress

Carpe Diem West submitted testimony to call the Congress’s attention to vital headwaters and watershed protection and restoration work that communities around the West are undertaking in partnership with federal agencies in order to protect their water supplies, and to emphasize the crucial role that continued federal investments play in supporting that work. February 2012


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 2011


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.


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, 2011


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, 2011


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.