Greeley pulling from water reserves as Poudre River runs black with fire runoff


GREELEY, Colo. (KDVR) — For the third straight day, Greeley water officials have had to watch helplessly as jet black water runs through the Cache la Poudre River. 

The river is the city’s primary source of drinking water, but is currently untreatable thanks to rain over the Cameron Peak burn scar. 

“When you scoop off the top, you just see nothing but black,” says Sean Chambers. “Lot of sediment, lot of ash and debris.” 

Chambers is the Director of Water and Sewer Utilities for Greeley, where operators are pulling from reserves for the fourth time this summer

He says there’s a limit to what is treatable economically, and it’s often more efficient to just let the dirty water pass. 

“All of us are tapping into that storage more prolifically than we would normally,” he says. “We will just play it by ear, but we won’t be turning the river diversion back on until the water quality cleans up and is suitable for treatment.”

Chambers say at this point, there are no concerns about water reserves running dry, but says mitigation over the burn scar needs to happen as quickly as possible. 

“We really need to get mitigation down over this burn area before we get major microbursts over it,” he says. “In the years ahead we’ll be navigating challenging water quality from both of these big fires, so it only amplifies the importance of watershed mitigation for us.”

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