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Fire Water

March 21, 2018

Wildfires are making it harder for water treatment facilities to meet drinking water standards.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

How fires threaten our water supply.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Wildfires devastate forests and cause property damage. At a meeting of the American Chemical Society, soil chemist Fernando Rosario-Ortiz explained that the fires can also affect drinking water.

FERNANDO ROSARIO-ORTIZ (University of Colorado, Boulder):

A lot of water utilities are dependent on water quality, of good quality,  coming down from forested watersheds, so having a wildfire on the watershed now will cause significant effects.

HIRSHON:

He says that when fires heat forest soils, the soils release compounds into groundwater and streams. Those chemicals can react with disinfectants used at water treatment plants, producing carcinogenic compounds in the resulting drinking water. Rosario-Ortiz and his colleagues study how fires affect different soils– work that will be crucial for keeping our drinking water safe in a changing climate. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon