New partnership to protect U.S. water supply, resources from wildfire risk

A new partnership announced by USDA and Interior will reduce the risks of wildfire to America's water supply in western states.

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2013 -- A new federal, local and private partnership has been announced by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior) Secretary Sally Jewell that will reduce the risks of wildfire to America's water supply in western states.

The Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership is part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, which outlines a comprehensive approach to reduce carbon pollution and better prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, including increased risk of wildfires and drought.

Through the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, the USDA and the Interior will work together with local water users to identify and mitigate risks of wildfire to parts of the nation's water supply, irrigation and hydroelectric facilities. Flows of sediment, debris and ash into streams and rivers after wildfires can damage water quality and often require millions of dollars to repair damage to habitat, reservoirs and facilities.

USDA's Forest Service and Interior's Bureau of Reclamation will kick off the new partnership through a pilot in the Upper Colorado Headwaters and Big Thompson watershed in Northern Colorado. The partnership will include the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Colorado State Forest Service and builds off of past agreements between the Forest Service and municipal water suppliers, such as Denver Water's Forest to Faucets partnership.

"This partnership will increase forest resilience, improve water quality, and reduce the risk of catastrophic damage from wildfire," said Vilsack. "This is good news for anyone who pays a water bill, and it is good news for our environment."

"In the West, more than forty Reclamation dams and facilities are on or downstream from Forest Service lands where drier, hotter weather has exacerbated the risk of wildfire," said Jewell. "This partnership can serve as a model for the West when it comes to collaborative and targeted fire threat reduction and restoration efforts to protect our critical water supplies."

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