Federal and local agencies will be working across property confines and bureaucratic lines to protect Colorado water supplies.
The Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior announced the partnership on July 19 at Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins during a kickoff event for the Western Watershed Enhancement Project. The project is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which looks to address impacts from climate change.
“It’s no surprise we’re dealing with constrained resources, and it’s also no surprise that we’re continuing to see ever-increasing threats to our natural resources, especially with wildfire,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, during the event. “It’s imperative that we work together and collaboratively.”
Agencies will work together to identify threats to water supply, with wildfires being their primary concern. Wildfires can cause increased sediment and ash flows into streams and rivers. These loads wreak havoc on water supplies, which must be treated to acceptable drinking standards, often at great expense.
The Colorado State Forest Service, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have announced a similar, localized partnership that will focus on the Colorado River headwaters and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. This local partnership is the first of six pilot programs that are part of the Western Watershed Enhancement Project. The model will also be used in Arizona, Idaho, California, Washington and Montana.
According to Secretary Vilsack, the partnerships were modeled after a “successful effort” between Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service following the Hayman and Buffalo Creek fires, which cost the water agency over $26 million in water treatment.
“If an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure, those numbers should illustrate to you why partnerships like this are so important and how we can work together,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
Like Secretary Jewell, Colorado State Forester Mike Lester called for a more “holistic approach” in addressing forestry and watershed issues.
“Work cannot stop at property lines, because the problems don’t stop at property lines,” he said.
“It’s no surprise we’re dealing with constrained resources, and it’s also no surprise that we’re continuing to see ever-increasing threats to our natural resources, especially with wildfire.”
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture