The list of direct and indirect impacts following a wildfire can be long and costly, and in Northern Colorado farmers located far from the fire's perimeter are dealing with one of wildfires lesser known consequences.
Bruce Finley, a reporter with The Denver Post recently portrayed the problems plaguing farmers in Larimer County in his December 8th article We're Losing Water. Six-months after this year's 136-square mile High Park fire burned ten percent of the Poudre River watershed, the fire is causing significant problems to the area's farmers located many miles east of the burn area.
A river impacted by a wildfire can become filled with wildfire-related ash, sediment and other pollutants that can cause a myriad of problems to a community's water supplies. And that's exactly what's happening in the Cache la Poudre River, the water supply for the City of Fort Collins. The aftereffect of the fire has caused the river to become less reliable and has the city tapping into their secondary water supply - which in previous years has been typically leased to farmers.
According to Finley's article, Fort Collins recently notified 80 farmers that they should not expect any leased water from that secondary source this spring. Farmers rely on that water for their crops and the recent news impacts them as they're preparing for the coming year's crops; thus bringing uncertainty and stress to their plans for 2013, and troubling questions for consumers of the products they previously supplied.
As communities struggle to deal with the far-reaching magnitude of wildfires, we urge them to encourage homeowners to embrace Firewise principles and to learn more about making their community fire adapted - a comprehensive approach to addressing wildfire risks at all scales, for all audiences, including farmers and other land managers. As communities reduce their wildfire risk, they can simultaneously have an impact on the potential post-fire effects that can linger for a very long time.