Northwest Drinking Water Concerns Could Get Worse as the Climate Changes

Thunderstorms high in the Cascades recently stirred up a lot of dirt in a central Washington river, causing problems for people on its banks.

All the dirt in the Naches River was too much for the city of Yakima’s water treatment plant to handle. Cities and towns could see situations like this happen more often as the climate continues to change.

Climate change will cause more storm runoff, change when snowpack melts and lead to more severe wildfires and harmful algal blooms, said Amanda Hohner. She studies how post-wildfire runoff affects drinking water treatment plants.

“At least in the Western U.S., the effects of wildfire and also climate change are really starting to challenge drinking water treatment plants, resulting in different water quality than maybe those water treatment plants were designed for,” Hohner said.