Alumna Gabrielle Boisramé (CE PhD '16) authored A Tale of Two Fires: How Wildfires Can Both Help and Harm our Water Supply (California WaterBlog, 12.3.17).
The biggest news about fire and water is usually about how burned landscapes contribute to erosion, which then pollutes streams and clogs reservoirs. When fires burn homes, pollution risks can be especially high due to the presence of hazardous chemicals. Fires can also lead to larger floods since there is less vegetation to slow water’s path from rainfall to stream runoff.
However, large public land managers such as the National Park Service and US Forest Service have lately been shifting away from the strategy of suppressing every single fire.
Letting some fires burn today can prevent catastrophic fires from burning through dense fuel in the future. Preventing such catastrophic fires removes their threat to the water supply – as well as the potentially devastating human losses. Increased streamflow, snowpack, and drought resistance in burned watersheds all add to this increased water security.
Boisramé's faculty adviser was Professor Sally Thompson.