Water managers are showing increased interest in mitigating the impacts of fire on their source watersheds as wildfires continue to increase. The combination of drought, wildfire, and flood seen especially in the west mean that blackened soil and other fire remains accumulate in nearby valleys, clogging and contaminating drinking water.
After the Hayman Fire, in 2002, Denver Water faced a reservoir cleanup and infrastructure repair bill upwards of $30 million. Rather than pay such a steep price over and over again, Denver Water is investing $16.5 million to match the Forest Service’s investment in thinning ponderosa pine stands, cutting trees killed by pine beetle infestations, and generally rehabilitating the watershed critical to Denver’s water supply. Partnerships like these are expected to increase as the connection between wildfire and contaminated water supplies becomes more apparent.