Watershed Protection? Look to the West
New York City has long been heralded for their water source protection program – as well they should. Protecting the drinking water for 9 million people isn’t easy (or even a walk in the – Central – Park.)
But there’s a much older story – one that long predates NYC’s – that doesn’t get the same recognition. We westerners should toot our horns loud from our mountaintops to salute the decades old work of Salt Lake City to protect the drinking water flowing from the Wasatch Front.
As Laura Briefer, Deputy Director for Salt Lake Public Utilities, and her co-authors Libby Blanchard and Bhaskar Vira point out in their peer-reviewed article in this month’s edition of Ecosystem Services, the Salt Lake story is generally absent from ecosystem services literature.
It shouldn’t be – it’s a great story. Since the early 1900s, the City has implemented a number of successful programs working with local landowners, the recreation industry and the federal forest service to protect the watershed. As they say in Salt Lake – the raindrop that falls in the watershed one day comes out of the tap the next day.
The Wasatch story is a prime example of the benefits of investing in ecosystem services and the power of multi-stakeholder collaboration. And thanks to their work, Salt Lake has not had to invest in any new treatment plants, or purchase any other water source, even though the City has grown from 55,000 residents in 1900 to over one million in 2014.
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