New report covers wildfire impacts on water supplies, potentials for mitigation

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DENVER, CO, Aug. 26, 2014 -- Throughout the last several years, there has been an increase in the frequency of severe wildfires across North America, ultimately raising concerns about the impacts on local natural resources such as water. As such, a new report from the Water Research Foundation (WRF) and the Canadian Water Network (CWN) offers a comprehensive look at the state of knowledge surrounding these fires and the potential for minimizing the impact they can have on water supplies.

Natural disturbances to forests by wildfire can adversely affect water supply, water quality and stream health for years, even decades, after it occurs. These effects can also impact larger basin scales farther downstream, increasing the likelihood that drinking water treatment processes will be impacted.

The report, "Wildfire Impacts on Water Supplies and the Potential for Mitigation," focuses on knowledge mobilization and lays the groundwork to systematically fill research gaps related to water quality, vulnerability of municipal water utilities to wildfires, and efficacies of mitigation measures to protect source water. The findings in this report will help ensure that scientists, engineers, foresters, and water managers have the resources they need to develop appropriate safety plans.

The findings outlined in this report were gathered during a two-day experts' workshop in Kananaskis, Alberta featuring 30 leading scientists and practitioners from the U.S., Canada and around the world. Experts discussed what leading-edge science exists to explain trends in wildfire occurrence and risks, impacts of wildfires on water supply and treatment, and evidence supporting the effectiveness of forest and water management techniques to mitigate the impacts of wildfires on drinking water supplies and treatment.

Experts participating in the two-day workshop discussed issues surrounding wildfires and related supply, treatment, and impact mitigation efforts based on their own experiences in other forested locations. As such, the outcomes of this workshop included in the final report produced by WRF and CWN are equally relevant to many areas in North America and beyond.

This report represents the latest effort by both WRF and CWN to address wildfires and corresponding source water matters. Recently, WRF published a report on examining best practices for wildfire risk reduction and mitigation. CWN produced its own study examining the management of risks posed to municipal waterworks systems as a result of wildfires in Alberta, Canada in 2012.

See also:

"Fire and Water: Hazards Management after Wildfires"

"Western flash floods, debris flows increase with worsening wildfire seasons"


About the Water Research Foundation

The Water Research Foundation is an internationally recognized leader in sponsoring research that supports the water community in holistically and cooperatively managing water from all sources to meet social, environmental, and economic needs. WRF’s research provides reliable and relevant solutions to the most critical challenges facing the water community today and into the future. Founded in 1966, WRF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has sponsored nearly 1,500 research projects and serves more than 1,000 subscribing organizations. For more information, visit www.WaterRF.org.

About Canadian Water Network

Headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario, Canadian Water Network was created in 2001 by the Networks of Centres of Excellence Program to connect international water researchers with decision-makers engaged in priority water management issues. Canadian Water Network works to harness the expertise of researchers to improve the ability of practitioners and implementers to respond to water challenges. For more information, visit www.cwn-rce.ca.

About the CWN-WRF Workshop

CWN was approached by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) to develop an Advisory Panel with leading scientists and practitioners from Canada, the United States, and other countries to complement the findings of a 2013 wildfire-focused report by WRF. In September 2013, at the request of ESRD and in partnership with WRF, CWN convened the two-day experts' workshop in Kananaskis, Alberta, to assess the state of knowledge on wildfires, water supplies, and the potential for mitigation of the impacts of wildfire on safe drinking water.

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