Thriving with Nature: Meet Watershed Keeper Supervisor Sarah Lenz

When your office is literally in nature, seeing wild animals can be a daily occurrence.

Sarah Lenz, watershed keeper supervisor in the Peninsula Watershed, is part of a small team of dedicated people in the SFPUC’s Natural Resources and Lands Management Division who patrol and protect the agency’s 23,000-acre watershed on the Peninsula. Lenz loves her job and her enthusiasm for the work she does daily is contagious.

SFPUC Watershed Keeper Supervisor Sarah Lenz.

The SFPUC-owned Peninsula Watershed is home to three drinking water reservoirs: Crystal Springs, San Andrea, and Pilarcitos. Because it has been protected as watershed land since the mid to late 1800’s, these lands also boast the highest concentration of rare and endangered species in the nine-county Bay Area.

Lenz has spent most of her career working outside in nature with her boots literally on the ground each day. After 15 years as a park ranger in the Bay Area, she joined the SFPUC almost eight years ago. She enjoys the variety of daily assignments, which can range from meeting with trail users, monitoring creek flows to provide for fish habitats, to patrolling for illegal use on the watershed including monitoring and cleaning up illegal activities. 

“Healthy watersheds produce high quality water. It’s very satisfying to be able to solve problems out in the field and make the watershed a better place,” said Lenz.

Eagles in the Peninsula Watershed.
Baby deer in the Peninsula Watershed.

Working in nature, and in Lenz’s case, is the heart of the Peninsula Watershed, means seeing plenty of the wild animals who call our watershed home. Wild animals commonly seen include raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, gopher snakes, king snakes, deer, wild turkeys, and a variety of migrating and resident birds. Mountain lions have been seen in our watershed and are occasionally caught on surveillance camera. Lenz tries to keep a safe distance from all animals, especially rattlesnakes.

“Coming to work each day, I know that the natural environment is dynamic and always changing. I get excited to see what has changed overnight; with the lake and creek levels, and the wildlife. Where will it be hanging out this morning? Who is around today and who is missing? I like to see the whole picture of the watershed and how it is being used,” said Lenz.

Mountain lions in the Peninsula Watershed.

One of the most memorable aspects of her job has been seeing the bald eagles return to San Mateo County after being absent for 150 years. They have been successfully nesting in the watershed for eight years now. “Seeing them fledge chicks every year tells me we have a very healthy watershed for them to call home.”

She believes providing clean, reliable, drinking water to our customers is the foundation of her job. “It leads every part of my duties on the watershed. Knowing that we have some of the highest quality water in the nation is something I take great pride in,” said Lenz.  

A resident of Half Moon Bay, Lenz enjoys walking her dog Luke, a Border Collie, Husky and Malamute mix, in the morning before heading to work.  “I enjoy being part of the water delivery system and turning the valves to send water to our customers, which I too am a customer,” said Lenz.

SFPUC Watershed Keeper Supervisor Sarah Lenz.