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)


Climate Chaos and Local Resilience: Water solutions in the American West

Carpe Diem West celebrates 10 years by releasing this beautiful interactive report. Click Download -  then click on the photo to see the report in full!  


Fighting Fire with Finance: A Roadmap for Collective Action

The US Forest Service, tasked with managing 193 million acres of public forests and grasslands across the U.S., has described the land it manages as “overgrown and unhealthy” and calls for action to “return forests to the way they were historically”. Unfortunately, the Forest Service lacks the resources to implement treatments despite the financial, social, and environmental benefits that restoration fosters. Fortunately, there is a proven solution to accomplish this ambitious goal.  Blue Forest Conservation introduces the Forest Resilience Bond in a recently released report "Fighting Fire with Finance- A Roadmap For Collective Action". We hope you come away from this report with an understanding of the issues facing our forests and how the Forest Resilience Bond can help. But even more, we hope you challenge yourself to question the status quo and start a dialogue with others. By working together, this roadmap can be a tool for practitioners to apply this innovative financing to countless other interventions across the globe, essentially redefining how society addresses environmental challenges. October, 2017 Photo Credit:  Mike McMillan


Albuquerque releases it's New 100 Year Water Resources Management Strategy

This 100-year water plan explores a number of supply alternatives while considering various scenarios of climate change and population growth. July 2017  


Healthy Headwaters 12th Leadership Convening Summary – Aurora, CO

Carpe Diem West convened its 12th Healthy Headwaters leadership meeting, bringing together scientists, policy makers, water managers, and regional leaders from around the West. March 2017


Restoration Priorities

One of the first steps in creating an actionable watershed investment plan is prioritizing what, where, and how restoration will take place in your watershed. This process can be overwhelming, if you don’t know where to start. We’ve sorted through dozens of watershed protection plans from around the American West to get a sense of what actions and outcomes communities are prioritizing, and how those priorities were decided upon. We hope this guide will get you thinking about what successful restoration looks like in your watershed. If you need help getting started, let us know. Our Healthy Headwaters Network is here to support you on your path to investing in the future of your watershed.


VIP Analysis

Carpe Diem West put together a team of experts to assist Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) in analyzing the outcomes and lessons learned of their McKenzie Watershed Voluntary Incentives Program pilot project (VIP). Our team made recommendations specific to EWEB, but also identified elements of the program that could be transferred to other watersheds and characteristics of communities that would be likely candidates for a VIP program of their own. We know there are members in our network who are looking to adopt similar programs and could benefit from the insights into EWEB’s VIP –  read the report below!


Healthy Headwaters 11th Leadership Convening Summary - Salt Lake City, Utah

Carpe Diem West's 11th convening brought together scientists, policy makers, water managers, and leaders from NGOs, philanthropic organizations, and the private sector. We met in Salt Lake City, Utah, home of the recently signed Mountain Accord, a comprehensive and holistic approach that addresses four areas of concern - environment, recreation, transportation, and economics – to create consensus around solutions that will stand the test of time. Read the key take-aways below. June 2016


The Legal Framework for Public Watershed Investment Partnerships

This policy report takes a look at a particular type of collaborative partnership involving non-federal parties’ investment in restoration and other activities aimed at improving the health of publicly owned watershed lands to enhance the security and quality of public drinking water supplies. This comprehensive report was written by Carpe Diem West Healthy Headwaters Leadership Team member Sarah Bates in collaboration with the University of Montana, Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy.