Colorado’s headwaters play a crucial role in meeting our nation’s need for fresh water. Our state and 18 others derive their water supply from Colorado’s high-country watersheds.

A Montane Lake. Photo by B. Cotton, Colorado State University

What is a Watershed?

Water is an essential element for sustaining life. Rivers, streams and lakes are the “lifeblood” of our environment. An adequate supply of clean water and the biological diversity that our watersheds support are essential to a future that is balanced both socially and ecologically.

Water is the key component of the environment, and the land that surrounds that water is the structure around that environment. Together, land and water make a watershed a whole system.

A “watershed” is the term used to describe an area of land united by the flow of water, nutrients, pollutants and sediments, moving downslope to the lowest point, through a network of drainage pathways that may be underground or on the surface.

We all live in a watershed and everything we do on our property can have an impact. The land drains into tributaries and these streams or creeks flow into bigger rivers. As this water flows downhill, it moves over the soil. Along the way, the water picks up debris (leaves or soil particles); sediments that can impact water quality.

Forests receive precipitation, utilize it for their sustenance and growth, and influence its storage and/or passage to other parts of the environment.

Click on the map to view a larger image.

Colorado’s River System Provides Water to 19 States

Four major river systems – the Platte, Colorado, Arkansas and Rio Grande – originate in Colorado’s mountains and fully drain into one-third of the landmass of the lower 48 states.

Colorado’s headwaters play a crucial role in meeting our nation’s need for fresh water. Our state and 18 others derive their water supply from Colorado’s high-country watersheds.

Mountain snows supply 75 percent of the water to these river systems. Approximately 40 percent of the water comes from the highest 20 percent of the land, most of which lies in national forests.

National forests yield large portions of the total water in these river systems. The potential is great for forests to positively and negatively influence the transport of water such immense distances.

Watershed Wildfire Protection Group

About the WWPG

The Watershed Wildfire Protection Group formed to identify hazards to water supplies from wildfires in Colorado.


The Watershed Wildfire Protection Group (WWPG) began as part of the Front Range Roundtable, and was formed to identify hazards to water supplies from wildfires in Colorado. JW Associates facilitated the WWPG during the development of a watershed prioritization process. The WWPG is a diverse group of watershed stakeholders, including the major water providers in the Front Range, and state and federal land management agencies.

Key Background Reports

Aug 1999
Aug 2007
Feb 2009
Aug 2009


We promote healthy watersheds by facilitating education and awareness; and facilitating prioritization, implementation and monitoring for people and wildlife.

  • Fish & Aquatics
  • For the West
  • Mammals
  • Next Generation
  • Public
  • Recreationists
  • Rivers & Streams


The WWPG’s vision is to protect Colorado water supplies and critical infrastructure from catastrophic wildfire and other threats by maintaining healthy, resilient watersheds through collaboration, implementation, leveraging and education.

Primary Goals

  1. Connect Implementers with Funders
  2. Provide Education & Outreach
  3. Maintain a Statewide Focus
Jan. 12, 2018Agenda
Oct. 6, 2017Agenda
July 7, 2017AgendaForest Management to Protect Colorado’s Water Resources
March 10, Drive for a Social Purpose

Forest Resilience Bond Overview

Introduction to the Forest Resilience Bond

Denver Water’s Watershed Partnerships

Northern Water Watershed & Forest Health Program
Nov. 18, 2016AgendaMinutesFire Adapted Communities

CSFS Fire/Fuels Program
Nov. 3, 2016AgendaWWPG: Background/Origins & Wildfire Watershed Assessments
July 28-29, 2016AgendaMinutesBridging The Divide Through Collaboration

Dolores Watershed & Resilient Forest (DWaRF) Collaborative Presentation

Colorado Brewsheds 2016 20 MB PDF
April 8, 2016AgendaMinutesThe Legacy of Severe Wildfire on Front Range Water Quality
Investing in Natural Infrastructure for Drinking Water: Reporting on Lessons from Colorado and the USA
Dec. 18, 2015AgendaMinutes
Sept. 8, 2015Agenda - Rio Grande Basin Roundtable & WWPGMinutes
May 29, 2015AgendaMinutesUS Forest Service Wildland Fire Decision Support System
Southern Rockies Fire Science Network: Supporting Fire Science from Peaks to Plains
CSFS Natural Resources Grants & Assistance Database and WWPG Web Page
The Cost of Not Responding: Wildfire Costs in Colorado
Jan. 23, 2015AgendaMinutesForest Management Treatments Adjacent to Reservoirs & Within Watershed ZOCs
Forest Management in East Side C-BT Watershed ZOCs
The Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program Monitoring & Effectiveness Assessment
Watershed Protection in Southwest Colorado
Oct. 31, 2014AgendaMinutesCoalition for the Poudre River Watershed
New Mechanisms for Investing in Watershed Health
May 9, 2014AgendaMinutesBurned Area Emergency Response Program Overview
Hat Trick Project - Black Forest
High Park Fire Watershed Protection
Lessons From the Waldo Canyon Fire
WWPG Roles
Jan. 24, 2014AgendaMinutes
Nov. 8, 2013AgendaMinutes
July 26, 2013AgendaMinutesDivision of Fire Prevention & Control Presentation
May 10, 2013AgendaMinutesWWPG Meetings Report Summary
WWPG Mission & Vision Statements
Potential Effects of Wildfire on Water Quality
PSCo Transmission & Substations Wildfire Protection
Wildfire Readiness & Response Workshop
Jan. 25, 2013AgendaMinutesWWPG Focus Areas/Goals Survey
Colorado-Big Thompson Watershed & Forest Health MOU
Oct. 26, 2012AgendaMinutes