Drought, Fire & Flood
In the Boulder Area:
Are We Prepared?

Photo of the aftermath from the Walker Ranch fire, September, 2000 by Jim Stout, city of Boulder

BASIN, in collaboration with Communications for a Sustainable Future at the University of Colorado, hosted an online forum Drought, Fire & Flood In the Boulder Area: Are we prepared?

This electronic seminar explored the background, the current situation and future concerns relating to climate change, wildfires and flash flooding in the Boulder area. This list serve discussion is archived .

Online Dialogue

October 23 - 31, 2000

You can review the discussion through the fire-flood archive

Following is a shedule of the topics that were covered during the seminar including background information and links.

October 23: Introduction
October 24: Drought
October 25: Fire
October 26: Flood
October 27- 30: Drought, Fire and Flood-- It's all connected!
October 31: Wrap-up

South Boulder Creek Floodplain aerial photo taken in 1937. For more aerial photos, select here.

South Boulder Creek at Eldorado Springs. Photo copyright and used by permission of Denver Public Library.

IN THE YEAR 2000...

After a number of wetter than normal years, the Boulder area experienced a taste of dry, even drought-like conditions during 2000; and 2002 is proving even more severe. In 2000 the lack of moisture never became severe enough for most municipalities to instigate conservation measures, but smaller water systems in the area did have problems and some individual wells ran dry as the water tables dropped. In 2002 many Boulder County communities have called for voluntary conservation, and several communities are instituting mandatory restrictions.

In the foothills, the fire danger is becoming extreme, with fuel levels in the forests building up to potentially catastrophic levels. In 2000 fires raged throughtout the West, (including several in the Front Range in June) local fire-fighters braced themselves for potential wildfires in the foothills. Then in September 2000 several significant wildfires occurred, first north of Boulder near Left Hand Canyon, then near Walker Ranch behind Green Mountain, the blazes burning thousands of acres but fortunately no homes.

Following the fires there was concern about potential flooding and erosion in the burn areas, a problem in part caused by the fact that following a wildfire the soil is coated with oils that make it hydrophobic-- the water runs off without being able to penetrate the soil. Erosion-- both in terms of sediment and organic materials-- impacted water quality downstream, and efforts were required to reseed the burn areas in hopes of reducing the impact.

These issues are all related, yet unless there is an urgent and compelling reason to, we often we don't think about their connections. To become prepared for the inveitability of drought, fire and flood in our community we can explore through dialogue how these topics are all related and what policies and preparation are required to meet the challenges.

INVITATION BASIN is a community project actively seeking public participation. We appreciate all feedback and welcome comments, suggestions and contributions. To find out more about how you can be involved, click here.

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