How California’s Wildfires May Affect Its Water Supply

In the last few years California has endured its worst wildfire seasons on record, with over one million acres scorched from Napa and Sonoma in Northern California all the way down to Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Diego in Southern California. It’s easy to focus on the searing images of burning homes or the heartbreaking stories of people, firefighters, and pets lost while the flames rage, but we must also consider the long-term implications that occur long after the last ember is extinguished.


According to the U.S. Geological Society, “about half the water supply in the southwestern United States is supplied by water from forests.” These are known as “watersheds.” Wildfires can pollute watersheds in a variety of ways. When the fire is active, ashes and other particulate matter can infuse the water. The real damage occurs, however, when rains follow the fires. Burned areas see greater erosion, and water runoff can fill watersheds with ash and chemicals from damaged structures.

As California enters its rainy season, officials and environmentalists need to be on guard for the possibility of increased pollutants in the water that people, animals, and fauna rely on. At Pathfinder Instruments, we offer a variety of conductivity test instruments that can analyze conductivity and resistivity of water supplies. View our product catalog today.