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Wildfires, smoke and ash: impacts to local water

What impacts, if any, with the smoke and ash resulting from wildfires have on our local water?

Posted: Sep 16, 2020 10:27 AM
Updated: Sep 16, 2020 10:37 AM

CHICO, Calif. – Anyone who has stepped outdoors in the past several days can probably agree that it looks bad, smells bad and air quality managers have said the result has been "unhealthy" air quality.

Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough wanted to find out if particles in the air from all the wildfires and resulting smoke and ash, is destined to have an impact on local water. She turned to a Chico State University water researcher for answers.

The scenes across California have been nothing short of “other worldly.” Chico State water researcher Dr. Jackson Webster, a civil engineer, says there is a bright spot in all of this: he says we don't need to worry about harmful impacts to our water.

"Our water quality is not likely to be impacted by the ash falling to the ground,” says Dr. Webster.

A nationally recognized water researcher, Dr. Webster took part in a number of studies on wildfire impacts to waterways after the Camp Fire.

Yarbough reached out to him to ask, what does this latest round of fires mean for our local water?

He explained, our region's drinking water supply is ground water; meaning – it is from the mountains and has been underground a long time. He says the ground serves as a natural filter for the water.

"It is moving pathogens and particles and it is high-quality water not impacted by wildfire,” says Dr. Webster.

He says there is a slight possibility that Lake Oroville, which is one of the state's largest reservoirs could feel some impacts.

Dr. Webster says if our region gets lots of rain in the fall, we could see ash and charcoal and debris contaminating the reservoir.

“There could be long term water quality impacts to the reservoir.”

Dr. Webster says for any long-term impacts, state water managers will need to stay alert to watch for any changes in water quality and be able to adapt water treatment technology as needed.

The bottom line when it comes to ash and smoke and a link between our water? Dr. Webster says it looks and smells worse than it is.
Yarbough asked Dr. Webster about any possible impacts to wildlife. He says wildfire is a natural part of the Sierra Nevada ecology and eco-system, so wildlife and fish tend to adapt quickly.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3015644

Reported Deaths: 33724
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles102419013936
San Bernardino2540941560
Riverside2422062517
Orange2123892367
San Diego2117872103
Santa Clara935571076
Kern85362565
Fresno82039932
Sacramento801541080
Alameda67375764
Ventura61257412
San Joaquin57094748
Contra Costa52146449
Stanislaus42548749
Tulare41016501
Monterey35418250
San Mateo32186294
San Francisco29139262
Imperial25253463
Solano25216105
Santa Barbara24481231
Sonoma23871240
Merced23800296
Kings19254133
Placer17194173
San Luis Obispo15658128
Madera13328130
Santa Cruz12196113
Marin11569154
Yolo10519131
Shasta9594117
Butte9411121
El Dorado765944
Sutter760477
Napa752139
Lassen509413
San Benito494143
Yuba481827
Tehama397142
Tuolumne330438
Nevada317673
Mendocino311432
Amador300129
Lake257228
Humboldt232224
Glenn192419
Colusa16919
Calaveras160823
Siskiyou140813
Mono10914
Inyo92429
Del Norte8572
Plumas5735
Modoc3793
Mariposa3464
Trinity3024
Alpine730
Sierra700
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 46°
Oroville
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 45°
Chico
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 46°
Red Bluff
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 52°
Red Bluff
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 52°
Chico
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 46°
Another very windy day for northern California as an area of low pressure continues its southward trek over our state. Thankfully we'll have much quieter weather on Wednesday, with more rain and snow chances coming.
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