In 2002, a catastrophic wildfire that burned 138,000 acres of forest made Denver’s drinking water supply run black with ash and soil. Cleanup of infrastructure damage, debris and erosion cost more than $25 million, while the fire-ravaged landscape caused increased flooding that wreaked havoc on water infrastructure and roads for years.
This catastrophe pushed Colorado’s biggest city to examine new ways to protect its drinking water, looking beyond the water utility and into the forested watersheds where the water supply originates. To lessen wildfire risks, Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) started a watershed investment program to improve management of source water forests, together dedicating a total of $32 million to forest restoration over five years. Starting in 2011, Denver Water has invested in forest restoration and improved forest management to reduce the risk of wildfires, and USFS shares costs and implements those restoration activities. Read more