Water Resources Professional Project Reports

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2019


The goal of this study is to investigate water resource security for large metropolitan areas in the western United States and to identify cities that are at potential risk of water resource degradation due to wildfire. In this study, source watersheds for western cities are identified and ranked based on the potential resistance and resilience of their water supply to wildfire impacts. Next, the wildfire hazard potential of each of these catchments is determined and erosion potential estimates are used to infer how water quality will be impacted if the watersheds burn. The findings identify large populous cities that receive the majority of their water resources from small, densely forested watersheds with limited geographic diversification are at the highest risk for source water degradation caused by wildfire. I then suggest a variety of management strategies for cites that fall on either side of the risk/vulnerability continuum. I conclude this assessment with four case studies including one case study describing how water funds have the potential to be an environmental and economic solution for vulnerable cities, and three case studies investigating how fires that occurred in metropolitan water supply catchments impacted water quantity and quality. A paradigm shift is necessary for society to move from suppression-based ideologies to ecological-based solutions in order to achieve resistant and resilient, fire wise cities. This project is intended to inform scientists, planners, and engineers about post wildfire effects on aquatic ecosystems and ways to better manage forests to mitigate the risk of damaging water supply.