Maximizing Forest Management to Protect Water Supplies

In Northern Colorado, thousands of acres of forests need restoration to reduce the size and severity of wildfires.  Public and private land managers lack the funding to reduce forest fuels at meaningful scales. We need to prioritize and fund forest management where it can best protect our water resources.

Components of Wildfire Risk

That’s why Peaks to People and researchers at Colorado State University developed the Watershed Investment Tool. The tool analyzes forest fuel conditions, erosion potential, and connectivity to water supplies to optimize forest fuel treatments for water supply protection. This helps us direct funds towards projects with the greatest outcomes. It also helps us track progress towards stakeholder goals. By decreasing the cost and increasing the speed in which projects are implemented, Peaks to People can ensure the available funding is yielding the maximum impact.

How the process works:

  • We work with local water utilities to map water infrastructure, such as reservoirs and diversions.
  • Next, we model wildfire likelihood and severity for current fuel conditions and after simulated forest management, such as thinning and prescribed fire.
  • We then estimate the impact post-fire sediment and debris would have on water resources for current and post-treatment wildfire severity.
  • We combine this with information on forest management feasibility and cost to identify effective and efficient places to reduce fuels.
Where infrastructure is at risk
Water supply infrastructure locations indicated as back points on map.

We update the tool with each project to track measurable outcomes of success and to inform future decisions. While the design of this powerful tool is complicated, understanding the value of its use is easy. Proactively managing the fuels that feed wildfire can reduce wildfire impacts to water supplies while maintaining and improving ecological integrity and resilience. The Watershed Investment Tool can be used to prioritize forest management activities and assess the benefit of specific projects. The combination of assessment and prioritization capabilities makes the Watershed Investment Tool the ideal instrument for outcome-based investing.

Learn more about this innovative tool and take it for a test drive on our brand new WIT web page! You’ll be able to:

  • Choose optimal treatment plans based on budget or goal of risk reduction.
  • Select a budget amount or risk reduction percentage to analyze.
  • Select your water provider of interest and
  • See the optimal treatment plan and associated risk reduction based on your selected criteria.

Return on Investment is not just for business  It’s for the prosperity and quality of life we all enjoy – and need to survive. Head over to to take it for a test drive, today.