June 27, 2013--Fires threaten water quality (Pagosa Sun)

Not only are the fires threatening the landscape, they are also threatening water quality in Pagosa Country. With monsoon season approaching, residents can expect to find silt, ash and debris in their water sources. This turbidity can impact the capacity of reservoirs as well as the quality of water. Until the monsoon arrives, conditions are perilously dry. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), weather patterns established in late April continued during May with persistent dry conditions in southwest Colorado. The Upper Rio Grande combined with the San Juan, Animas, San Miguel and Dolores basins were at 2 percent of the June snowpack median. As of June 2, Wolf Creek Summit was snow free. Mountain precipitation recorded in the basins as of May was 60 percent of average. Reservoir storage in the basins have remained constant at 67 percent of average with a slight increase during the month of May due to runoff. At this time, the forecast for streamflows in the basins remains well below average at 120 cubic feet per second (CFS). “It is unlikely that the state will see much relief from drought conditions this year,” the NRCS website read. When rain does arrive, trouble could begin on another front. According to U.S. Forest Service hydrologist Rebecca Smith, the West Fork Fire is mostly burning on the Rio Grande side of the Divide, however, it is slowly burning around the edges within the West Fork drainage. There have been 16,000-plus acres burned in the West Fork drainage, which includes areas above Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s (PAWSD) intake. With the lack of vegetation due to fires in the forest watershed, the runoff caused by severe rainstorms increases in speed and has little to slow it down, leading to the potential of flooding and soil erosion.

To view the full article, visit the Pagosa Sun. For a copy of the original article contact the WIP at (970) 247-1302 or stop by the office at 841 East Second Avenue in Durango, Colorado.