Climate Change and Water in the West: Drought, Wildfires, and Flood in Colorado

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Published on November 14, 2013

Author: LearnMoreAboutClimate

Source: slideshare.net

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In the second in our four-part webinar series we welcome three hydrologists from the US Geological Survey: Dr. Jeff Writer, Dr. Brian Ebel and Sheila Murphy. Watch the video replay of the webinar here https://new.livestream.com/lmac/waterwebinar2.

Jeff specializes in wildfire impacts on water quality and aquatic ecosystems, coupling of ecological and engineered infrastructure, fate and transport of emerging contaminants. Brian specializes in unsaturated flow and soil physics, surface water/groundwater interaction, hillslope hydrology and runoff generation, landslide and debris flow initiation, and post-wildfire hydrology. Sheila’s research focuses on the characterization of the hydrology and water chemistry of small watersheds and how they are affected by both natural factors and disturbance.

Water in the West - Too little or too much? Challenges of Drought, Wildfire and Flood in Colorado November 13, 2013 Webinar Dr. Brian Ebel, Colorado School of Mines Sheila Murphy, US Geological Survey Dr. Jeff Writer, University of Colorado Boulder Dr. Anne Gold, CIRES & Deb Morrison, University of Colorado Boulder https://sites.google.com/site/climatesciencewebinars/water-module/webinar-2-activity

Water in the West Webinar 2 – Too Little or Too Much? Please also visit the webinar resources and activities site: https://sites.google.com/site/climatesciencewebinars/watermodule/webinar-2-activity

Webinar Series Facilitators Anne Gold Deb Morrison

Water in the West Webinar Series Overall Structure • Two webinars • Background reading material on the website https://sites.google.com/site/climatesciencewebinars/watermodule/webinar-2-activity Requirements For Credit More Webinar Series to come • “Extreme Weather” in Spring 2014

Too Little or Too Much? Drought, Wildfire and Flooding in Colorado November 13, 2013 Jeffrey Writer, PhD. Environmental Engineer University of Colorado Sheila Murphy Hydrologist USGS Brian Ebel, PhD. Hydrologist Colorado School of Mines Organized by: Anne Gold, Ph.D. CIRES & Deb Morrison, CU Boulder School of Education

Question for Scientists….. Can you describe the relevance of evaluating water from a watershed perspective? What is the Boulder Creek watershed?

Mississippi River Watershed Watershed: the area of land that drains into a water body From Murphy, 2006

Zooming In: South Platte River Watershed From Murphy, 2006

Boulder Creek Watershed Land Cover From USGS National land cover data set

Boulder Creek – Mining and Water Placer gold mining on Fourmile Creek, circa 1890 From Murphy, 2006

Boulder Creek OrodellGauge 2002-2014 Average Daily Discharge

Water Supply in the Boulder Creek Watershed Width of blue line represents discharge June From Murphy, 2006 October

Question for Scientists….. Can you elaborate on water quality and quantity issues stemming from watershed variability?

Relation Between Discharge and Water Quality

Population Growth and Water Usage From Colorado State Demographic Office From Colorado River District

Drought in Colorado Doesken, 2007

Land Use and Water Supply

Question for Scientists….. Why do we see increases in wildfires in the western US? How do these increases affect watersheds?

It’s Getting Hot in Here Annual frequency of large (>400 ha) western U.S. forest wildfires (bars) and mean March through August temperature for the western United States (line). Westerlinget al. Science 2006

Earlier Snowmelt Contributes to Wildfires Average frequency of western U.S. forest wildfire by elevation and early, mid, and late snowmelt years from 1970 to 2002 Westerlinget al. Science 2006

Hydrologic Impacts of Fire: Changes in the Ecosystem Before fire After fire Transpiration Interception Storage Infiltration Rates After fire Before fire litter organic rich soil mineral soil ash ash/soil mineral soil

How Does A Watershed Respond? Sediments in Reservoirs Flash Floods Debris Flows 22

Question for Scientists….. Using the FourmileCanyon fire as an example, can you explain impacts of wildfire on water supply?

2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire, CO Gold Run. Boulder, CO Fourmile Cr. M. Boulder Cr. Image: NASA Map of 2,500 hectare burned area

Storm Variability in the Fourmile Creek Watershed, 2011 June 19-20 Total P 27-34 mm Max I30 10-14 mm/hr July 13 Total P 0-33 mm Max I30 0-41 mm/hr July 7 Total P 8-31 mm Max I30 7-49 mm/hr Measured rainfall at UDFCD, USGS, and NADP gauges interpolated by kriging; I30: Maximum 30-minute rainfall

Discharge of Fourmile Creek

Video Clip – Gold Run

Question for Scientists….. So far we have talked about wildfire and its effect on hydrology. What are the implications for water quality, particularly as it relates to drinking water?

Samples of Fourmile Creek July 13-14, 2011 Upstream of burned area Within burned area

Surface Water  Drinking Water Source water • Suspended solids • Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) • Pathogens • Etc. Water treatment • Coagulation/Filtration • Disinfection

DOC Concentrations (2 Years of Data) 80 60 40 20 Upstream from burn FCCR FCLM Downstream from burn FCWM FCLM FCBC Thunderstorm - High DOC causes water treatment problems - Typically elevated during spring runoff - 2010-11 Remained high 2 years post-fire during thunderstorms 8 Drinking water treatment threshold 6 2 80 60 40 20 8 2011-12 Drinking water treatment threshold 6 4 2 Base-flow & Snowmelt N ov ct O Se p Au g l Ju n Ju M ay Ap r M ar Fe b n Ja D ec N ov O ct 0 Se p DOC (mg/L) 4

Effects of Wildfire on Drinking Water Supply Elevated nutrients  eutrophication

Question for Scientists….. Other disturbances will have an impact on water quality as well, for example, the recent Storm of 2013. Can you talk to us about this?

Discharge of Fourmile Creek Indirect measurements after the flood suggest peak was actually even higher (<2,300 cfs); these data are being modified

Fourmile Creek Below Gold Run Sept. 15, 2013 From http://ropeandsummit.wordpress.com/

Fourmile Creek Below Gold Run Sept. 15, 2013 From http://ropeandsummit.wordpress.com/

Fourmile Canyon (upstream of burned area) September 19, 2013 Showing old railroad track. Photo by Sheila Murphy, USGS

Question for Scientists….. How would you describe the connection between the Fourmile Canyon Fire and the Colorado Storm? Did the fire have an effect on the flood?

Total Rainfall for September 9 to 17, 2013 (230 mm) (430 mm) Interpolated using Urban Drainage & Flood Control District rain gauges.

Rainfall Totals for Northern Colorado, with Watershed Boundaries - September 9-16, 2013 Localized upslope rainfall event From NOAA using rainfall data from NOAA, UDFCD, CoCoRaHS and others

Question for Scientists….. How significant was this storm? Was it a “100-year flood”? What does that mean?

Floods in Boulder May, 1874: May, 1894: July, 1906: July, 1916: Aug., 1955: May, 1969: Boulder Creek Boulder Creek Sunshine Canyon Fourmile Canyon Fourmile Canyon Boulder Creek Canyon Blvd during flood 1894, Denver Public Library

Floods in Boulder: May 1894 7th street 9th street 19th street 19th Street flooded from Canyon to the Hill, 8 feet deep and a mile wide Images from Denver Library

Annual Peak Flow 100 Year Flood: What’s in a Name? Problem is that there is often little data for extreme events 1 Exceedance Probability 0

Question for Scientists….. What are the implications of variable water supply on urban planning along the Front Range as we look toward the future?

The Challenge of Using Past Events to Predict the Future

Water in the West - Too little or too much? Challenges of Drought, Wildfire and Flood in Colorado Questions & comments: climatewebinars@gmail.com Video replay: http://www.livestream.com/lmac Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/learnmoreaboutclimate Resources: https://sites.google.com/site/climatesciencewebinars/water-module A live broadcast from University of Colorado Boulder ATLAS Institute: Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society Next Webinar Series: Spring 2014 – Extreme Weather

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