USU studying impact of wildfires on reservoirs

Jun 16, 2021, 12:38 PM
wildfires reservoirs...
(Low water levels are pictured in Echo Reservoir north of Coalville on Thursday, May 6, 2021. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(Low water levels are pictured in Echo Reservoir north of Coalville on Thursday, May 6, 2021. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

LOGAN – Are wildfires from the past partly to blame for Utah’s terrible drought now? Researchers at Utah State University are launching a new study to see how badly wildfires are impacting Utah’s reservoirs.

Bad year for reservoirs and wildfires

One of the main problems researchers will be examining is called river sedimentation, and it limits how much water a reservoir can store. 

Here’s an analogy: If you fill a bucket with mud, it can’t hold any more water. Watershed Sciences Professor Patrick Belmont says that analogy has been slowly happening to Utah’s reservoirs as mud, debris and other sediments from burn scars are washed into the bodies of water. They estimate capacity in riverbeds and reservoirs will be down 25% by 2060.

“We can’t pick out specific reservoirs right now and say, ‘These are the most vulnerable.’ That’s what we’re working on over this next year,” he said.

Belmont says they’re taking a close look at all 133 reservoirs across the state to see where the biggest problem areas are.

“We’re thinking about over the next decade where can we make changes in forest management and fire management to reduce the risk to the reservoirs,” Belmont stated. 

Belmont says they’re especially concerned because the number of wildfires has increased 20-fold over the past three decades, and this year is already forecast to be especially bad because of dry conditions all over the state.

“This just happens to be a terrible year for wildfires and reservoirs,” he said.

However, one thing is certain. The fire potential is directly tied to the snowpack we receive every year, and Belmont says climate change is already having an impact.

“We’re seeing the snowpack has been declining for the last two or three decades,” according to Belmont.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories


Prosecutors are dismissing the case against a man accused of starting the Jacob City Fire in July....
Adam Small

Case of Jacob City Fire suspect dismissed

Prosecutors are dismissing the case against a man accused of starting the Jacob City Fire in July.
2 months ago
Unmanned drones that drop fireballs are one of the latest weapons against wildfires in the U.S....
Natalia V. Osipova and Catherine Thorbecke, CNN Business

These fireball-dropping wildfire drones are on the frontlines of prevention

The founder of Drone Amplified says the drones method works by burning dead leaves and sticks that could cause wildfire later in the summer.
2 months ago
Pile burning near Kamas for wildfire control....
Waverly Golden

Remember your fire sense, pile burning in Kamas City

If you're in the Kamas City area and see smoke, don't be alarmed. Fire crews ignited piles in the Left-hand Canyon in Kamas City.
3 months ago
Fire in Logan is out....
Waverly Golden

Grass fire in Logan burned about a quarter of an acre

Logan City Fire Department said in a Facebook post that a fire in the area of 700 North and 350 West, Logan, is now out.
4 months ago
wildfire in summit county, parleys fire from above...
Adam Small

Teams continue wildfire mitigation work in Parley’s Canyon

Officials said a catastrophic wildfire could send debris into, and cause other problems for, a watershed relied on by nearly 365,000 people.
4 months ago
Prescribed burning is being planned for the Manti La Sal National Forest. The burns will be held du...
Mark Jones

Prescribed burns are planned for the Manti-La Sal National Forest

Officials with the Manti La Sal National Forest say prescribed burns will be taking place during the fall/winter months when favorable burning conditions allow.
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
USU studying impact of wildfires on reservoirs