Portions of the Poudre River are reportedly turning very dark brown and even black as springtime flow stays strong. While this may sound quite disturbing, there's a natural explanation – a wildfire.
Last fall, the Cameron Peak Fire burned 208,663 acres and destroyed 469 buildings in northern Colorado, leaving charred land in its wake. Now, thanks to springtime snowmelt amid hot temperatures and stormy weather, ash and debris is being carried downstream. It's thick enough at times that locals are reporting that some portions of the river had turned black in the Greeley area.
According to a report from KDVR, the "really ashy, really high-sediment" water is causing issues when it comes to water treatment, with Greeley Water and Sewer forced to tap into reservoir supplies with problems spiking in late May and slowly declining since.
See KDVR's report below, complete with video of the water and an explanation of what this means for water treatment:
It's fairly common for wildfires, especially those as large as the Cameron Peak Fire, to have lasting impacts. Not only can ash and debris get carried into local water supplies, destroyed forestland can result in flash flooding during rain, along with erosion and mudslides.
Thankfully, large reservoirs present in northern Colorado ensure that locals have water that's clean enough to effectively be treated.
While some parts of Colorado are very dry right now, particularly in the west, northeast Colorado is at 144 percent of the to-date snow water equivalent median. There's sure to be quite a bit more run-off coming down from the mountains.
With more snowmelt on the way and springtime storms set to continue, more days of dirty water could be ahead.