Disaster in Las Vegas : Climate change Wildfires and Water Contamination

Published on: 14 June 2022
by KnowESG

Wildfires started earlier this month in Las Vegas, New Mexico in the massive Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak. The ash-filled erosion is very likely to pollute the Gallinas River.

The West needs rain, but interventions have to be made by Mayor Louie Trujillo' and other officials in order to make sure that before it starts raining, they will need to find a solution to the burnt topsoil and ash that the rain could transport into the river.

"With the soil instability, during a heavy rain event it would be like putting water on a bunch of baby powder where it doesn't absorb at all; it just falls. We hope to beat the monsoon season, doing some of the interventions we're going to have to do along the watershed."

It is not the first time that megafires in the West have caused extensive damage to homes, forests, and wildlife. They are also causing soil instability.

With the Gallinas River providing over 90% of the water for Las Vegas, we can only imagine the consequences of charred sediments flowing into the river. "It really tastes like dirt," said Andy Fecko, general manager of the Placer County Water Agency in Auburn, California, which is located between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

There is always the possibility of treating these waters and filtering away the taste of dirt and ash. However, experts are worried about the interaction between burned organic molecules and the chlorine used to clean the water. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a notice about the risks of mixing the two. Moreover, "It significantly increases treatment expenses," Fecko told CNN.

With the global climate catastrophe, conservationists and policymakers are pointing to another impact of a warmer climate: huge wildfires and vulnerable water resources. "This is not our first megadrought, so we have to make really good use of every drop of water that we store," said Dan Porter, forest program director for the Nature Conservancy. "These megafires are making that very difficult to do."

In September 2014, California's King Fire damaged over 100,000 acres in El Dorado County. That fire was relatively small by the standards of other megafires, but it burned very hotly.

"Seventy-one percent of the entire state of California drinks water that comes out of the Sierra Nevada," Corcoran said. "Three-quarters of the people who live in our state should be concerned with how our headwaters are managed."

Raising awareness about this issue also plays a role in making this project move forward and faster.

"I don't think people really understand the severity of the threat to the overall system of water management across California and across the West," said Porter. "We're facing a climate-driven set of processes that we don't have full control over."

Source : CNN