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BYU: After a Mega Fire, How Are Waterways Impacted by a Wildfire?

BYU: After a Mega Fire, How Are Waterways Impacted by a Wildfire?


Utah continues to experience larger and more severe fires. Scientists from Brigham Young University are working to understand how these fires impact water flow, sediment, and TDS in the Spanish Fork watershed.

All Rights Reserved. Photo. 2022


Brigham Young University


In the Western United States, the area of wildfires has more than doubled since the 1970’s and have become larger and more severe. Utah Lake is of concern due to an over-abundance of nutrients that cause harmful algal blooms, a process called eutrophication. Scientists want to understand the process by which the ecosystem naturally renews itself to normal conditions after a wildfire.


Students collect water samples weekly using Manta+ multiprobes to monitor a burn area of over 200 square miles on and around Mount Nebo in the Spanish Fork watershed. The probes gather key data to learn how these wildfires affect water quality, water flow, what has dissolved in the water, and the amount of sediment moving through the waterways.


Because it is relatively unknown how these mega fires will affect stream chemistry and water flow, scientists are consistently monitoring the waterways. They use the data they gather to make recommendations to water managers to help them control eutrophication, which can have a negative impact on water quality.

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