The burnt ground left in the wake of the Waldo Canyon Fire has increased the likelihood of flash flooding and mudslides. This threat directly impacted two Colorado Springs reservoirs: the Nichols and the Northfield reservoirs.
“When we have rainstorms, it really churns everything up; brings out that vegetation and debris down into the streams and tributaries. It just makes it a little more challenging to treat,” said Andy Funchess, field operations manager for water systems with Colorado Springs Utilities.
According to Funchess, the area surrounding the two reservoirs was badly burned. The runoff and erosion around the reservoirs was affecting the water’s quality.
Funchess said CSU has the ability to treat the water, but the cost would outweigh the benefit. For this reason, CSU drained the two reservoirs. The empty basins will now help with flood mitigation, as in their empty state, the reservoirs will catch debris and water before it rushes down the mountainside.
CSU will also take advantage of the reservoir’s empty state to make repairs on failing infrastructure. Funchess said construction on Northfield Reservoir will begin next year. He said construction on the Nichols will begin in the next two years, depending on the budget and the stability of the surrounding ground.
According to Funchess, the nearby Rampart reservoir was not impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire. He said there are efforts focused on ensuring that reservoir is protected from any obstructions.