GeoWorld December 2011

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Maximize the positive press from your feature in Reprints Maximize the marketing power of your feature. Eprint Give your feature a presence on the World Wide Web. Custom Plaques Showcase your great press in a public area for all to admire. BY DOUGLAS F. RYAN AND WILLIAM B. SAMUELS The Future of Geospatial Data Management: A Natural-Resource Perspective Tracking Forests Reforestation Mapping Monitors Seed from Source to Site THE ESSENTIAL V OICE OF THE INDUS TR Y JULY 20 1 0 Fire water? vs. A New To Ne ew Too A sesses Drinkining ool Assesse sse es Drink ng Water's Risk from Wildland Fires Product & Business News Data, Hardware and Industry News Fire water? vs. A New Tool Assesses Drinking Water's Risk from Wildland Fires 16 GEO W ORLD /JUL Y 2O10 Many communities across the United States depend on forests and grasslands for clean drinking water. But wildland fires, when they're severe, can put such water sources at risk. I n the aftermath of the 2002 Hayman Fire, for example, the Denver Water Department was forced to shut down its Cheesman Reservoir, a major sup- ply of water, for several months because of high sedi- ment loads from the burned watershed. That same year, the Government Accountability Office reported that decision makers in government and utilities lacked adequate information about impacts of wildland fire on drinking water and other valuable resources. To help fill this gap, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and their partners are developing Rapid Assessment of Values at Risk-Water (RAVAR-Water), a GIS tool to rapidly assess the effects of wildland fire on public drinking water. Lurking Dangers Public drinking-water utilities are nationally recognized as a critical infrastructure, because their disruption can endanger human health and seriously impact economic activity for large segments of the public. Forests and grasslands are the source water for many public water supplies, and effects on these sources need to be included when planning and managing wildland fire. Safe drinking water is a mainstay of public health, and a reliable source of clean water from utilities is essential to many industries (e.g., food process- ing, electronics, pharmaceuticals, etc.). Wildland fire primarily threatens drinking water by contaminating essential surface-water sources. Fire-related contaminants in public water supplies can cause waterborne disease, increase water-treatment costs or, in extreme cases, shut down a drinking water supply due to treatment failure. Suppliers of drinking water are acutely concerned about spills of toxic materi- als into surface waters caused by wildland fire damage and high levels of suspended sediment in source water from burned lands. The potentially long-lasting effects of wildfire make information about drinking-water effects a high-priority need for decision makers. Depending on the contami- nant source, fire-related risks to drinking water can occur while a fire is burning, from fire-caused toxic spills and fire-retardant application, or months to years after a fire is out via rainstorm-driven washoff of ash and accelerated soil erosion or debris flows (land- slides) from burned lands. Wildland fires can be caused by natural events (e.g., lightning) and deliberate acts (e.g., arson). Wildland fires also can be ignited by accidental or malicious damage to other infrastructure such as electrical transmission lines. Risk of fire is increased by extreme weather, including drought and high winds. Building RAVAR-Water Scientists have developed fire-spread models to predict the direction and intensity of flames after a Now offering short-run reprints! Order 100 copies or less. Many communities depend on forests for clean drinking water, but wildland fires can put drinking water supplies at risk. JUL Y 2O10 / WWW . GEOPLA CE . COM 17 For custom reprints contact us today! Call (678) 292-6054 or email 20 24 28 16 Analysis Tools USFS

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