Public drinking-water utilities face a daunting challenge to develop plans and strategies for managing floods and treating polluted water that result from wildfires. This is made even more challenging due to the unpredictability of wildfires and the extent of their damage.
One health risk is the compromise of drinking water quality.
As ash from smoke settles, it becomes part of runoff from rains. This means it is entering our water systems at a much higher rate than normal.
Why is this important? The ash from smoke is toxic and can poison and contaminate public drinking water.
Just as wildfires impact air quality, they can also affect the quantity and quality of water available. Water supplies can be adversely affected during the active burning of a wildfire and for years afterwards…In the aftermath of a large wildfire, rainstorms flush vast quantities of ash, sediment, nutrients and contaminants into streams, rivers, and downstream reservoirs. The absence of vegetation in the watershed can create conditions conducive to erosion and even flooding, and naturally occurring and anthropogenic substances can impact drinking water quality, discolor recreational waters, and may potentially contribute to harmful algal blooms. —EPA.GOV