Like many cities around the world, Denver gets its drinking water from rivers and reservoirs, which in turn get their water from forests. Many of those forests, however, are in trouble – thanks to funding cuts, climate change, and a horde of opportunistic beetles. That puts the city’s water supply at risk as well, so Denver teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service to funnel money it collects from water fees into forest restoration. And it’s not the only city to do so.
Denver Water delivers clean drinking water to more than 1.3 million people spread across more than 335 square miles, and most of that water comes from rivers and reservoirs that capture run-off from forest-covered hills in clearly-delineated watersheds. The forests both protect the steep slopes from erosion and regulate the flows of water by mopping it up and then releasing it slowly over time.
And therein lies the problem: climate change has extended summers in Colorado just enough to give the northern pine beetle the comfort it needs to multiply like never before. The bug has taken full advantage – devouring bark at a rate ten times higher than ever recorded, killing trees and leaving them scattered like kindling for wildfires.
Convinced that spending money now will save money in the long run, the utility agreed back in August to partner up with the U.S. Forest Service. The $33 million deal represents an option for water utilities as they combat the impacts of climate change on the forests that are so essential to water quality. Ecosystem Markeptlace breaks down the deal and what it represents: Why Denver Spends Water Fees on Trees.