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Healthy Headwaters Background
Partnership Sucess Stories
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.”
But 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. Read more
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. Read more
Salt Lake City, UT
Remembering Our Relationship with Our Watershed
Salt Lake City sprawls across the valley floor below the towering mountains of the Wasatch Front. In addition to a stunning backdrop and world-class recreation, the 11,000-feet-high peaks provide clean, reliable water supplies to growing population of more than a half million people.
This water comes almost entirely from melting snow—a virtual reservoir high in the mountains. Unfortunately, that reservoir is vulnerable to the impacts of a warming climate, which means more precipitation falling as rain in the winter, less reliable snowpack, and earlier, more rapid runoff in the spring. These changes could cause the city to face serious shortages and water quality problems in late summer and fall. Read more
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 Bandolier National Monument in 2011. Read more
Other Information on Western Headwaters
This literature review prepared for Carpe Diem West by the Sonoran Institute examines the available estimates of the value of water produced by National Forest lands in the West:
This 2004 report by the Trust for Public Land and the American Water Works Association has hard numbers showing the link between land protection and water supply costs, as well as case studies from across the United States:
“Managing the PNW Headwaters in a Changing Climate,” Brian Staab (20 MB PDF file)
Carpe Diem West Academy launches collaboration with NOAA's Climate.gov
Webinar recording posted!
CMIP5 Updated Climate Models: Implications for Western Water Management
Webinar recording posted!
Vulnerability Assessment, Take Three
Webinar recording posted!
Effective Messaging: Communicating Nature's Benefits
Carpe Diem West releases report New Visions, Smart Choices - Western Water Security in a Changing Climate
Healthy Headwaters Alliance rolls out inaugural Policy Platform
Latest Academy webinar recording archived- Watershed Valuation: A Closer Look
Healthy Headwaters 6th Leadership Convening in Portland a resounding success
Academy Webinar Series: November 14
Robust Decision Making
Academy Webinar Series: September 20th
Vulnerability Assessment - Take Two
View the Archive
We've moved! Please update your records with our new address
Academy Webinar Series: June 21st
Watershed Valuation - From Australia to the American West
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Healthy Headwaters Alliance rolled out April 2012, releases charter Policy Platform
Carpe Diem West Academy launches its newsletter!
Academy Webinar Series: March 21st
Getting Through the Bottleneck: Assessing Vulnerability
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Leadership Convening Summary: Healthy Headwaters
Carpe Diem West’s fourth Healthy Headwaters convening, 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 – in Oakland on October 28, 2011. Read More
NEW Report: Governing Like A River Basin: Options for Expanded Stakeholder Engagement in the Colorado River Basin examines examples of successful stakeholder engagement processes and how they may be used in conjunction with the Bureau of Reclamation’s Basin Study to build long-term solutions for the Colorado River. Read More
NEW Report: Read Carpe Diem West's report, Watershed Investment Programs in the American West. An Updated Look: Linking Upstream Watershed Health & Downstream Security, which provides information on what communities are doing to protect their headwaters. Read the report
Charting the Rapids Ahead
In partnership with the Center for Public Health & Climate Change, Carpe Diem West conducted an overview analysis to assess the intersection of western water, climate change and public health.
Read the report
Webinar on the U.S. Forest Service's Watershed Condition Framework (WCF)
Hosted by Carpe Diem West –
U.S. Forest Service's Anne Zimmermann, Director of Watersheds, Fish, Wildlife, Air & Rare Plants talks about the WCF and how is it guiding on-the-ground restoration.
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Carpe Diem West Academy Website Phase II
Thanks to the generous funding of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, we're off and running on Phase II of the Carpe Diem West Academy. Launching in December 2011, Phase II will be even more dynamic, offering webinars, discussion forums, feedback mechanisms, user profiles, and new tools and best practices. Read More
Healthy Headwaters Meeting Summary
Carpe Diem West's Healthy Headwaters Working Group held its third face-to-face meeting - along with an invited group of western water leaders – in Denver on March 25, 2011. Read More
'Thinking Like a River Basin' Report
Carpe Diem West's report, Thinking Like a River Basin: Leaders' Perspectives on Options and Opportunities in Colorado River Management, paints a portrait of a river basin – and a leadership community – at a crossroads. Read More
Denver Post Colorado River Op-Ed
On February 25, the Denver Post ran an insightful op-ed by Carpe Diem West leader Doug Kenney of the Colorado River Governance Initiative at the University of Colorado in Boulder, about the long-term future of dwindling Colorado River supplies in the face of climate change – and what people are doing about it.
New CRS Report on Energy's Water Demands
In January 2011, lead author Nicole Carter and her colleagues at the Congressional Research Service submitted their new report, Energy's Water Demand: Trends, Vulnerabilities, and Management, to Congress. It provides an excellent overview analysis of the water footprint of energy in the United States. Read More