Gonzaga Researchers Help Secure Grant to Study Wildfire Impacts on Drinking Water

Huntington Park in Downtown Spokane, with the river to its left.
The Spokane River in downtown Spokane. Photo by Zack Berlat

February 22, 2024
Gonzaga University News Service
A collaborative team of researchers at Gonzaga University and Montana State University has been awarded an $850,000 USDA Forest Service grant to investigate the impact of wildfires on drinking water quality in the Pacific Northwest. The research project will span four years and focus on drinking water sources in Oregon and Washington.

The joint effort involves Gonzaga faculty members Kyle Shimabuku (civil engineering) and Eric Ross (chemistry) and Montana State’s Amanda Hohner (civil engineering) from MSU. The project is part of a larger Joint Venture Agreement between MSU and the US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, led by Hohner.

Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest have adversely affected drinking water sources, damaged infrastructure and raised concerns about the treatability of wildfire-impacted water, distribution system management strategies, and associated costs. The research project's primary goal is to examine how public water systems in the region can better prepare for and respond to the impacts of wildfires.

Key Objectives of the Research

  1. Wildfire-Impacted Water Treatability: Shimabuku and Ross will assess the potential for water treatment technologies like activated carbon, coagulation, and disinfection to address post-wildfire water quality challenges.
  2. Distribution System Derived Contaminant Management Assessment: The vulnerabilities of drinking water distribution systems to wildfire impacts at the Wildland-Urban Interface will be investigated.
  3. Drinking Water System Capital and Operational Cost Estimates in Response to Wildfires: The team will examine how post-wildfire water quality influences capital and operational costs for drinking water utilities.

This research initiative signifies a crucial step towards understanding and mitigating the impact of wildfires on drinking water quality, aligning with the increasing challenges posed by climate change in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn about another grant Gonzaga professors recently received to improve our community!