Drought, Wildfires Pose New Threats To California Water Supply

"Already diminished by drought and extreme heat, California’s water supply will face yet another peril as wildfires continue to incinerate ever larger areas of forested land, according to new research.

In a UCLA-led study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers determined that increasing forest fire activity is “unhinging” western U.S. stream flow from its historical predictability. In areas where more than a fifth of the forest had burned, stream flow increased by an average of 30% for six years after the fire.

On its surface, increased stream flow — the rate at which water is carried by rivers and streams — could be seen as a boon for the drought-stricken region. But too much water comes with hazards, including increased erosion, flooding and debris flows.

“Water is a really heavy, destructive thing, so when there’s too much of it, or when we get surprised by a large amount of water at once, it’s definitely not a good thing,” said Park Williams, an associate professor of geography at UCLA and one of the study’s lead authors."

Hayley Smith reports for the Los Angeles Times February 21, 2022.

Source: LA Times, 02/22/2022