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Water Blog

Greeley Continues Protecting Source Water from Wildfires

Despite experiencing above-average precipitation this year in Northern Colorado, the onset of the wildfire season has merely been delayed. The city collects its water supplies from more than 1.5 million acres of watershed—most of it forested.

In observance of Source Water Protection Week (September 24-30) the American Water Works Association commends water utilities’ endeavors to safeguard this vital resource. 

Matt Sparacino, a water resources project manager with Greeley Water and Sewer, points out that decades of fire suppression led to increased wood fuel debris. The compounding effects of pests, diseases, and a warmer, drier climate contribute to unhealthy forests. These conditions seem to amplify the size, duration, and frequency of wildfires in our region’s watersheds.

“The threat of wildfires will increase through late summer as heat persists and vegetation dries out,” Sparacino said. “Greeley continues to work with the United States Forest Service and local partners to mitigate the effects of fire and restore the Poudre River’s ecosystem.”

Through collaboration with its partners, Greeley strives to stabilize and revegetate north Front Range watersheds impaired by wildfire. In 2020, the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome Fires impacted all four watersheds Greeley uses for its drinking water. Three years later, the Colorado, Poudre, Big Thompson, and Laramie Rivers are still recovering.

Effects of wildfires on source water:

  • Burns away vegetation holding soil and water in place.
  • Increases the risk of flooding and erosion.
  • Pollute water sources with ash, sediment, nutrients, and metals.
  • Increases water treatment expenses and reduces the capacity of reservoirs.

However, wildfires aren’t the lone threat to Greeley’s drinking water. Rainfall within burn scars can cause significant runoff, transporting mud, rocks, and entire trees into rivers. This excessive sediment challenges water treatment plants to convert this source water into drinking water.  


Protecting Greeley’s source water from past and future wildfires comes at a substantial cost. Around $30 million in grants from state and federal funding agencies have supported the post fire mitigation efforts. This once-in-a-generation funding enables Greeley Water and its partners to complete fire mitigation projects. But additional funding is needed to support widespread revegetation, stream restoration, and the repair of facilities damaged by fire.  

Sparacino said post-fire recovery is a long journey, but he is beginning to see promising results. Some of the areas that were mulched to retain moisture and slow soil erosion after the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires are showing healthy robust revegetation.

“Healthy forests are needed to produce the high-quality water our customers expect,” Sparacino said.

As the watershed restoration work unfolds in its third year, Greeley’s commitment to protecting our source water remains resolute. 

Contact Us

Greeley Water and Sewer

1001 11th Ave, 2nd Floor
Greeley, CO 80631

Monday - Friday 8am - 5pm

970-350-9811 tel
970-350-9805 fax

Water Conservation

970-336-4168 for Water Budget


Water 7am-3pm 970-350-9320
Sewer 7am-3pm 970-350-9322
after hours970-616-6260

Other Numbers

billing970-350-9811 (dial 2 for billing clerk)
start or stop service970-350-9811 (dial 2 for billing clerk)
water taste or odor970-350-9836
water pressure970-350-9320
water restrictions & violations970-336-4134
utility line locates811
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