Wildfire damage is threatening drinking water supplies across the West long after the blazes are put out, the New York Times reports. Increasingly vicious wildfires, fueled by climate change, are exposing huge swaths of hill- and mountainside to increased erosion which in turn can obstruct and foul drinking water supplies for years. At best, this raises costs for municipalities forced to maintain pipes clogged with debris and at worst makes the water untreatable, forcing localities to seek alternative water sources in the midst of an epic megadrought.

The lengthened fire season is only exacerbating the problem. “We’ve got a month to two months to do as much work as we possibly can in advance of those big monsoon rains,” Jennifer Kovecses, former executive director of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed near Fort Collins, CO, told the Times. “But at the end of the summer we’re probably still going to have some black water coming down the river.” (New York Times $; Climate Signals background: Wildfires, Drought)