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Drinking water utilities study post-fire treatment

January 20, 2023

Utilities, researchers partner for safer water

Water Research Foundation (WRF) project #5168 and Oregon’s Portland Water Bureau (PWB) are funding a multidisciplinary team of water utilities, academia, and consultants to study and share guidance to improve water treatment and climate resilience.

In parallel to the design of PWB’s new greenfield water filtration facility with a daily capacity of 135 million gallons, the study will identify and prioritize adaptations to water treatment due to wildfires and other climate disruptions. Wildfires can cause costly, long-term water treatment issues that push water treatment processes beyond their design and operational response capabilities.

The principal researchers are Lynn Stephens, Brown and Caldwell; Dr. Mac Gifford and Yone Akagi, Portland Water Bureau; and Dr. Monica Emelko, University of Waterloo.

In-kind partners include Metro Vancouver, Medford Water Commission, and the City of Grants Pass – utilities that serve communities impacted by wildfires.

The research team will assess ash characteristics of several Northwest fires. Ash samples collected in an active fire zones by PWB from the 2020 Riverside Fire, Seattle Public Utilities from the 2022 Bolt Creek Fire and Metro Vancouver from the 2022 Minnekhada Fire will be analyzed.

Bench- and pilot-scale treatment experiments are planned to evaluate the effectiveness of different treatment strategies. In addition, specialized analytical monitoring to fully characterize organics and nutrient changes throughout the treatment process will be utilized.

The project is anticipated to take 15 months. Upon completion, findings will be published in a report and presented to the water industry via webcast.