Do wildfires impact our water quality?

According to USGS, about half of the water supply in the southwestern US is supplied by water from forests. About 80% of the freshwater resources in the U.S. originate on forested land.

More than 12 million acres of land, including important forested water-supply watersheds, have burned in the southwestern U.S. in the past 30 years. And each year, that number grows.

Wildfires increase susceptibility of watersheds to flooding and erosion, which can directly impact water supplies. The impact of a wildfire on our water sources can have lasting effects for years to come following an event.

How do wildfires directly impact our water quality?

While actively burning, ash from the fires can settle into lakes or reservoirs used for drinking water supplies.

Fires release various chemicals and contaminants into the air. When it rains, these contaminants make their way into our water supplies and can impose upon sensitive habitat areas. Harmful contaminants like mercury, often liberated from the soil and tree trunks, find their way into our water supply and water treatment infrastructures are not always set up to address the particular problems that arise from wildfires. One of the biggest issues arises when dissolved carbon from the fires mixes with the chlorine used to treat our water supplies which then introduces carcinogens into our water.

Not only can it impact the quality of water, but it can lead to problems with our watersheds. As vegetation burns, there is increased erosion and susceptibility to flooding which can diminish existing reservoirs and increase the water treatment costs as cities and towns are forced to rebuild their water treatment plants.

While the outlook seems rather grim, as more and more scientists study the impacts of wildfires, we will find better solutions and better ways to respond to such events.

Scientists have sparked initiatives that remove the majority of sediment and mud deposits along river banks and have begun planting trees in their place to help the ecosystems better recover.

Alongside scientists, our first responders bravely risk their lives to save others'. Our hearts go out to those directly or indirectly impacted by the fires and to the first responders and their families. Based in Colorado, we have know first hand the effects of wildfires and personally know those who are brave enough to fight them. It's important to remember the good of those willing to help and to support them in their efforts in the ways we can.

So what can you do?

Well, you've come to the right place! First and foremost, it is important to invest in a filter that will remove the contaminants and chemicals introduced into our water from fires.

We recommend our Nano Pitcher in order to target the extra sediment in the water while still removing the other contaminants that pose a health risk.

If you want to get involved in supporting those who have lost homes due to the fires or to support those fighting them, there are various organizations you can donate to in order to help. It's best to research local initiatives to see how you can make a difference in your area or in other areas directly impacted.

We can all make a difference and make choices that are better for our health and the health of others in these times. And even one person can make a difference.

For an uplifting story, read on here to see how a Colorado man and his 6 year old daughter bought and donated RVs to those who had lost their homes to wildfires.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

To learn more:

Water Quality & Wildfire from USGS

How Wildfires Are Polluting Rivers and Threatening Water Supplies

Stanford water expert discusses wildfire’s threat to water quality