U.S. Forest Service ⁄ Denver Water Forest to Faucet Partnerships

Release Date: Aug 28, 2010  

U.S. Forest Service ⁄ Denver Water Forest to Faucet Partnerships

On August 28, 2010, Denver Water and the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service announced an agreement (click here for a copy of the press release) to proactively improve the health and resiliency of forests and watersheds in areas critical for providing water to the City and County of Denver. Each agency will contribute $16.5 million for a total of $33 million to conduct forest health restoration treatments on more than 38,000 acres of National Forest lands in northern Colorado. Goals include reducing wildfire risk, restoring areas recovering from past wildfires, and minimizing erosion.

Colorado´s forests to faucet connection
National forest lands are the largest source of municipal water supply in the Nation, serving over 66 million people. As the headwaters for four major rivers (the Arkansas, Colorado, Rio Grande, and Platte), Colorado´s public forests are especially important and provide surface water to over 30 million Americans in 13 states from California to the Mississippi River. Over 1.3 million residents in the City and County of Denver tap into water from snowpack and streams on National Forest lands in northern Colorado.

Forest health restoration benefits the public – both in Colorado and nationally
Forest health restoration treatments will help protect water resources for Denver´s residents as well as millions more downstream beneficiaries, including homes, businesses, and agriculture. Restoration will also help the forests become more resistant to future insect and disease epidemics, reduce wildfire risks for communities, and improve habitat for fish and wildlife species. More resilient forests will also be more adaptive to the impacts of a changing climate.

Forest health restoration saves money
Both the federal taxpayer and the Denver Water ratepayer bear the costs of poor forest health. The Forest Service is currently spending tens of millions of dollars to reduce hazards in Colorado´s 3 million acres of bark beetle infested forests. Wildfires, such as the 2002 Hayman fire outside of Denver, can cost the taxpayer as much as $30–$40 million per fire. Likewise, Denver Water is currently spending over $40 million to deal with the aftermath of the Hayman and Buffalo Creek fires, including dredging the Strontia Springs Reservoir as sediment and debris continues to flow downstream from the burned forests. For Denver Water´s customers, the average household will pay a total of $27 dollars over five years to help improve forest health. Denver Water determined that this investment will save its customers money in the long run.

This partnership helps the Forest Service restore more forests
Denver Water´s investment of $16.5 million over five years will enable the Forest Service to accelerate and expand its efforts to restore forest health in the areas most critical for Denver Water´s water supplies and infrastructure. All of Denver Water´s funds will be directed to specific zones where their reservoirs and other infrastructure are most at risk from wildfire. As part of the agreement, the Forest Service has agreed to prioritize $16.5 million of its appropriations over the next five years to conduct forest restoration work within the five watersheds that are the primary water supply source areas for Denver Water – the Upper South Platte, South Platte River Headwaters, St. Vrain, Colorado River Headwaters, and Blue River watersheds.

Links for more information:
Denver Water´s fact sheet and Q & As
Region 2´s Water Website

Key Contacts

Lawrence Lujan, 303-275-5346