UNM Study Finds Significant Water Supply Threats from Wildfire in Western US

Source: UNM Newsroom

The University of New Mexico (UNM) has published findings from its study showing that wildfires are one of the largest drivers of aquatic impairments and water supply threats in the western US. Funding for the study entitled, “Wildfires increasingly impact western U.S. fluvial networks,” was provided by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Upper Rio Grande Water Operations Model. Although the direct impact of wildfires in specific places has been quantified, this is the “first large-scale analysis to utilize remote sensing of burn perimeter and severity, in-situ water quality monitoring, and longitudinal modeling to determine estimates of stream and river length impacted by wildfires at a continental scale.”

The study estimated that that every year about 342 new kilometers of the total stream and river length in the western US has been directly affected by wildfire disturbances, adding up to approximately 11 percent of those water bodies over a period of 20 years. Future research efforts of this group will focus on creating rapid response teams that can conduct research soon after wildfires are contained to answer questions about downstream disturbances. For more information, read the UNM article and read and download the study here.