Using Economics to Understand the Implications of Wildfires: An Alberta Case Study
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Forested regions in northern and western Alberta provide approximately 88% of surface water supplies to Alberta’s population. It is critical that the risks associated with changes in water quality and the connections to upland forests are understood. One of the key risks arises from wildfires as these disturbances release a variety of contaminants into surface waters. These contaminants travel downstream to water utilities and may result in a range of possible outcomes from less severe (small change in operating costs) to more severe (shut-down of water utility and importation of water supplies). Recent increases in the magnitude of wildfires, along with increased provincial water demand, have resulted in a need to evaluate wildfire risk to downstream municipal drinking water supply and treatment systems. The project models the magnitude and likelihood of wildfire occurrences in source water regions in Alberta and combines fire/water transport and water utility cost models in order to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of existing and future management strategies for drinking water security.
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