Key Principles of Watershed Investment: Restoration Priorities

One of the first steps in creating an actionable watershed investment plan is prioritizing what, where, and how restoration will take place in your watershed.

This process can be overwhelming, if you don’t know where to start. Carpe Diem West has sorted through dozens of watershed protection plans from around the American West to get a sense of what actions and outcomes communities are prioritizing, and how those priorities were decided upon.

They hope this Guide will get you thinking about what successful restoration looks like in your watershed. If you need help getting started, the Healthy Headwaters Network can support you on your path to investing in the future of your watershed.

An example from the Guide is the Rio Grande Water Fund, which has been operating this restoration project in the Middle Rio Grande area of New Mexico from 2015 the present. They determined the following priorities for their watershed:

  • Restore watershed functions by improving the health of streams and riparian areas;
  • Mitigate the downstream effects of flooding and debris flows after wildfires;
  • Reduce forest fuels in areas identified as high risk for wildfire and debris flow;
  • Support forest products industries’ use of wood by-products from forest fuel reduction;
  • Maintain the reduced wildfire hazard in treated areas;
  • Secure sustainable financing from water users, government, investors and donors, and facilitate payments to upstream land managers.

Headwaters forests provide over 60% of the American West’s water supply and they are in grave danger. Catastrophic wildfires, a changing climate and past management decisions have hurt the forests’ ability to provide clean water to millions of people.

Today, leaders around the region are pioneering innovative ways to build resilience back into our forests through watershed restoration and source water protection. More resilient forests give us a more resilient water supply.

Carpe Diem West leads the Healthy Headwaters Alliance, a coalition of water utility managers, conservationists, public agency staff, scientists, community advocates and businesses.

Photo courtesy of Carpe Diem West.

See full Guide (PDF).

See Healthy Headwaters Network on the Carpe Diem West website.

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