Study to Commence on the Effects of Wildfires and Fire Retardants in California Watersheds

Release Date:

California Water Science Center Research Chemist Dr. Charles Alpers will commence a study on assessing the effects of wildfire and fire retardants on nutrient transport in California watersheds.

Photo of a plane dropping flame retardant on a wildfire

Large wildfires have increased in size and frequency in the western United States over the past several decades. This has led to increased soil erosion and the transport of sediment containing nutrients into streams and reservoirs. Excess nutrients typically lead to the increased production of algae which can then lead to low levels of dissolved oxygen. This degrades the habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as having negative impacts on the drinking water supply and human recreation.

In addition, each year millions of liters of fire-retardant chemicals are applied to wildfires across the nation. The use of these retardants could also have significant effects on downstream nutrients. The aim of this study will be to determine which nutrients are likely to increase in concentration in areas affected by wildfire in the western U.S., and whether the use of fire retardants may exacerbate the situation. 

Learn more >