As wildfires rage in Colorado high country, authorities try to protect watersheds from contamination
In what is already a raging wildfire season, forest service and water officials in Colorado are working to protect the state’s watersheds from contamination.
Damage to water supplies in reservoirs can be disruptive and cost millions in repairs down the line.
He is also the study’s lead author.
The study, funded by The Water Research Foundation and presented at CU last month, lists challenges posed by wildfires, including short- and long-term effects of the availability and quality of drinking-water sources used by major metropolitan areas such as Denver.
The work includes thinning trees and restoring forest on more than 40,000 acres of watershed deemed critical to downstream water supplies, Burri said.
Those areas provide clean drinking water to more than 1.4 million residents in the Denver area, Burri said.
Protecting watersheds has become a top priority on the Front Range, according to Mike Myers, chief of the Colorado Springs Wildland Fire Team, as major wildfires have become almost year-round events.
Colorado Springs, however, was able to draw on two smaller reservoirs to provide safe drinking water for residents, Myers said.
The results showed the heated materials increased the turbidity of the water, a key measure of water quality, and responded poorly to chemical coagulants, leading to downstream filtration problems, the CU researchers said.
Tree-thinning and other mitigation work around Denver Water’s Cheesman Reservoir paid off in 2002 during the Hayman fire, which scorched 138,114 acres.