Healthy forests mean clean drinking water for Colorado residents. This is the idea behind the Forests to Faucets collaboration between Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service and other forest management groups.
Both the USFS and Denver Water are struggling to meet their budgets in the face of these challenges, so in August of 2010 the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain office cut a $33 million deal with the Denver utility to proactively manage 38,000 critical acres in five key watersheds – if Denver Water comes up with half the money.
Denver Water took the offer, despite – or perhaps because of – its own struggles with a slew of disaster-related expenses, including a $26 million bill to remove silt and mud from a reservoir in just one wildfire-damaged watershed.
Convinced that spending money now will save money in the long run, the utility agreed to finance the removal of dead trees in sensitive areas among other activities that will halt the beetle’s massive tree-eating ventures by implementing water fees that will amount to about $27 dollars per household over the next five years.
Five years on, the project is operating under budget, and it’s expanded in both scope and ambition, says program manager Don Kennedy.