Wildfire intensity impacts water quality and its treatment in forested watersheds

NEW ORLEANS, March 20, 2018 — The recent Thomas Fire in California was the largest wildfire in the state’s modern history. It scorched nearly 282,000 acres between December 2017 and January 2018, and serves as a reminder of how devastating such events can be. Now, researchers report that wildfires in forested watersheds can have a variable but predictable impact on the substances that are released from soils and flow into drinking water sources. The new research provides important insights for water utilities evaluating treatment options after severe wildfires.

The researchers will present their work today at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world’s largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 13,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

“Wildfires can have dramatic effects on watersheds, in addition to destroying personal property,” Fernando L. Rosario-Ortiz, Ph.D., says. “But perhaps less obvious are their potential effects on drinking water sources, caused by altering soils and the fundamental processes of forested watersheds. We find that these fires can cause many substances to be released from soil into drinking water sources, leading to contamination. The nature and


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