Indexed on: 10 Jul '14Published on: 10 Jul '14Published in: Environmental Science & Technology
In many parts of the world, forests provide high quality water for domestic, agricultural, industrial, and ecological needs, with water supplies in those regions inextricably linked to forest health. Wildfires have the potential to have devastating effects on aquatic ecosystems and community drinking water supply through impacts on water quantity and quality. In recent decades, a combination of fuel load accumulation, climate change, extensive droughts, and increased human presence in forests have resulted in increases in area burned and wildfire severity-a trend predicted to continue. Thus, the implications of wildfire for many downstream water uses are increasingly concerning, particularly the provision of safe drinking water, which may require additional treatment infrastructure and increased operations and maintenance costs in communities downstream of impacted landscapes. A better understanding of the effects of wildfire on water is needed to develop effective adaptation and mitigation strategies to protect globally critical water supplies originating in forested environments.