Focus at Four: The effect of wildfires on drinking water

KBTX First News at Four EXTENDED(Recurring)
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 4:53 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - Texas A&M researchers are investigating the affect of wildfires on drinking water.

About 12,400 wildfires burned across Texas in 2022 and burned more than 605,000 acres, according to A&M officials.

According to the study, heat from wildfires causes chemical reactions in soil and creates pyrogenic organic matter, which then flow into water sources.

Researchers at A&M were awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation that will allow the university to study the impacts, specifically the affect of pyrogenic organic matter, on drinking water.

“A lot of the research that’s been done so far has focused on the Western States and forested watersheds,” said Garrett McKay, assistant professor in the Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M. “These kinds of watersheds have historically provided a really pristine source of drinking water. But wildfires have the potential to change that.”

Garrett said more research needs to be done to learn the impact of wildfires on drinking water in Texas.

“This project is funded by the National Science Foundation to look into this a little bit more,” said McKay. “With increased fire severity and frequency in different areas, we’re hoping that the results from our study will be able to inform a little bit more.”

You can watch our full interview from First News at Four in the video player above.