From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Forest fires can have devastating consequences to watersheds cities depend on, so the U.S. Forest Service is reaching out to municipal water providers to take measures to thin forests.
The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday voted to pay the Forest Service $50,000 to thin about 81 acres near Twin Lakes. The Forest Service provides the expertise and manpower to do the work. The water board will join other water providers throughout the West to reduce the impact of fires.
Last summer, large fires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs burned thousands of acres, raising the specter that those cities will face the same challenges Denver and Aurora have had from the 2002 Hayman Fire.
“A movement is under way for the Forest Service to go into watersheds that are vital to municipal water supply to thin the forests and reduce the impact of fires,” said Alan Ward, water resources manager for the water board.
Colorado Springs and Aurora already have paid the Forest Service to clear other large areas near the Mount Elbert Forebay, located just north of Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is a vital transfer point for the Homestake Project which the two cities jointly operate. Pueblo also stores water in Twin Lakes, as well as Clear Creek Reservoir and Turquoise Lake in the same general area.
“There are lots of areas in our watershed that are at extreme risk,” Ward said.
The water board and Forest Service are studying the possibility for future agreements in the watersheds of transmountain ditches in the Tennessee Creek area, he added.
Meanwhile climate change is expected to exacerbate the wildfire problem. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradodoan. Here’s an excerpt:
Colorado’s future under the influence of climate change will be significantly warmer and drier than recent years, and the impacts will affect the regions’ water, forests, wildfires, ecosystems and ability to grow crops. That’s the conclusion of the draft of the federal government’s National Climate Assessment, which was released for public comment on Monday by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
The water content of Colorado’s snowpack and the timing of the spring runoff are changing, which could pose major challenges for the state’s water supplies and farmers, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University and co-author of the portion of the assessment addressing Colorado and the Southwest. The Southwest, including Colorado, will see significantly declining snowpack, increasing numbers of wildfires directly affecting communities, and threats to public health caused by spiking summer temperatures and disruptions in electricity and water supply, according to the assessment’s regional outlook.
Mounting evidence suggests that temperature increases caused by people are responsible for killing trees throughout the region, increasing the number of wildfires and sparking bark beetle outbreaks.
“Increased warming will increase wildfires and wildfire impacts,” Waskom said. “The models project more fire and greater risk.”[..]
The only good news to be found in the climate assessment is that Colorado’s growing season may get longer as the temperatures warm, Waskom said.