Wildfires Jeopardize Access To Drinking Water

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In many Western states, drinking water supply start high up in the mountains as reverse. This summer's record-breaking wildfires have reduced some headwaters, forest burn trees and heaps of Ash as Luke Runyan from member. Station K. U.. NC reports that often creates expensive headaches for water treatment plants long after the smoke clears. Few places in the West know how wildfires affect water supplies like Fort Collins Colorado the state's largest wildfire ever recorded is burning just outside the city now but their problems really started eight years ago before then it's main water source the poodle river was nearly pristine. We had been privileged and in some ways probably took for granted that these watersheds were providing. A consistently clean clear water all the time. That's Fort Collins Water Quality Manager. Jill or pays we're along the river just outside the city downstream from where in twenty twelve, the high park fire burned more than eighty, seven, thousand acres for the first year after the fire every time it rained the river turned black from mudslides we ended up with a lot. Of Sediment in our pipelines that was difficult to remove to keep those muddy flows from causing problems, the city installed an early warning system, a series of monitoring stations along the river. If there's too much sediment or a pays says utility workers can turn off the treatment plants intake and switch to water from a large reservoir it became really important for us. To have a heads up for win those changes in water quality were occurring the effects of the burn scar on water quality only lasted a few years but this early warning system is far from obsolete because this year is cameron peak fire has burned another broad sweep of the river's watershed, which means for Collins, again joins the list of western cities learning. To live with wildfires that burn bigger and hotter than they've ever seen before this is a new reality and we're learning as we go. Joe. Harwood is with the water and electrical utility for two hundred, thousand people in and around Eugene Oregon this summer the holiday farm fire burned along the banks of their sole water source, the McKenzie River soon after their. Customers noticed the water coming out of their faucets had a smokey taste people quite frankly to use a scientific term freaked out because it's not something he'd dealt with me for Harwood's says, they eventually figured out the chemistry at their treatment plan to remove the taste and when this winter's rainstorms arrive, utility workers will be monitoring for other harmful things that can. Be transported in wildfire runoff like nitrates, heavy metals, and dissolved. Organic carbon were trying to learn the lessons of others, Colorado, and California to create our own best management practices. The utility is spending one million dollars this year on post fire erosion control with more spending plan. Next year hardwood says back on the banks of Colorado's Putina River the city of Fort. Collins. Jill. Or A peyser says the city had to raise water rates to deal with effects of the fire eight years ago that could happen again. But she says decisions the city made after that last big fire like building new infrastructure to remove sediment and beefing up policies around residential water restrictions will help them respond this time around we live in fire prone. watershed and. Are Part of our responsibility to adapt to those that reality a reality that because of climate change increasingly includes drier forests, hotter summers and extended fire seasons across the West for NPR news I'm Luke Runyan in Fort Collins Colorado.

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