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Project ID: 14-1-06-14

Year: 2014

Date Started: 09/01/2014

Ending Date:  08/01/2018

Title: Post-fire Water Quality: An Investigation of Determinants and Recovery Processes in Burned Watersheds in the Western U.S.

Project Proposal Abstract: Fresh water resources in the Western U.S. have generally been allocated to municipal, agricultural or riparian use. Large fires, which have significant impact on downstream water quality, will ultimately influence a regional municipal water source or other beneficial use where adequate water quality is critical. There is ample research supporting increased nutrient loading to streams after a fire, but information regarding metal and/or organic carbon is rarely published. Recent research demonstrated that forest disturbance via beetle kill caused increased disinfection byproducts (DBPs) and total organic carbon (TOC) in water treatment plants (WTPs) due to changes in the nature of soil organic matter and TOC (i.e., more hydrophobic). Fires are likely to have a much stronger impact on soil organic matter, so changes in DBPs in municipal water supplies might be an important water quality issue associated with fires. Elucidating the impact of fires on both metals and TOC/DBP loading in post-fire watersheds is a critical research need. We also note a paucity of studies that have systematically evaluated the mechanisms (drivers) controlling recovery and resiliency or developed models for water quality prediction after fires. The proposed research addresses these key gaps in the post-fire water quality literature. Specifically, we will focus on the impact of wildfire on water quality behavior and determine the key drivers impacting recovery and resiliency of impacted watersheds and municipal water supplies over time. The primary objectives of our work include developing a comprehensive database of pre-and post-water quality data, undertaking geospatial statistical and regression modeling, and improving parameterizations and uncertainty estimation in current hydrochemical models when applied to post-fire watersheds.

Principal Investigator: Terri S. Hogue

Agency/Organization: Colorado School of Mines

Branch or Dept: Civil and Environmental Engineering

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Michele A. Land

Colorado School of Mines

Research Administration

Budget Contact

Karen C. Haines

Colorado School of Mines

Research Administration

Co-Principal Investigator

John E. McCray

Colorado School of Mines

Civil and Environmental Engineering


Alicia M. Kinoshita

San Diego State University

Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering


Chuck C. Rhoades

Forest Service

RMRS-Forestry Sciences Lab-Fort Collins

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network


Northern Rockies

Southern Rockies








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