Wildfires impact drinking water

By Gustavo Buenrostro

Wildfires can change the water quality of rivers according to Fernando Rosario-Ortiz during the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Science festival on Monday.

Wildfires can change the amount of nutrients and pH levels. It can also increase the turbidity, which is the cloudiness or smokiness in the water. The amount of carbon in water is also increased.

Ortiz, an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was the keynote speaker of the event.

Ortiz along with other researchers at the University of Colorado did a case study on wildfires in Colorado, specifically one that happened in Fort Collins.

Fort Collins has two main sources of water and a wildfire affected one of them, the water source being Cache la Poudre river.

Ortiz said that he gather soil samples and water samples of the CLP river as the burned water quality and went to an area that wasn’t affected by the fire as unburned water quality.

He and the researchers found that a wildfire had a higher concentration of nutrients, turbidity and organic carbon.

The water can be filter and changed so that it can be drinkable, but it would cost more money to do.

Ortiz said that intensity is also a factor in the water quality. The higher the intensity of a fire, the higher concentration of organic carbon and turbidity and the more costly it would be to treat the water.

Ortiz said the purpose of The lecture is not only to bring awareness to the impact of wildfires to water sources but also to water utilities. He said people should be consciences of how water is purified and understand what the process really entails.

Melissa Robles, an SFP technician for Mesa STEM program, said that this not only impacts students and community, but also californians.

“Students, community and californians don’t really have a point of comparison. We always ask what causes (wildfires) but we never really ask what the impact of them are. It not something we really think about,” Robles said.

Amy Cao, a biology major, said that the lecture was interesting and informative.

“I think it was interesting. No one thinks about the correlation between wildfires and water and how it would affect water. It is something to look into. He showed other ways to purify water and make it clean that I wasn’t aware of,” Cao said.

The event was the start of a week wide event that involves STEM related events. Robles, who is the organizer of these events, is excited to have people participate.

Yesterday they showed the film WALL-E and tomorrow they will show the film “Earth” at 7 p.m. at the E7 quad area.

Robles said she hopes that  not only students come, but children show up as well. She said there is not much of a push for STEM and hopes these events will get them inspired.

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