Fuel Reduction Techniques as Effective Forested Watershed Management Practices against Wildfire: Drinking Water Quality Aspects

EPA Grant Number: R835864
Title: Fuel Reduction Techniques as Effective Forested Watershed Management Practices against Wildfire: Drinking Water Quality Aspects
Investigators: Karanfil, Tanju , Chow, Alex
Institution: Clemson University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018 (Extended to August 31, 2019)
Project Amount: $1,260,408
RFA: National Priorities: Systems-Based Strategies to Improve The Nation’s Ability to Plan And Respond to Water Scarcity and Drought Due to Climate Change (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water


This research project will investigate the consequences of different fuel reduction techniques, as watershed management practices against wildfire, on the exports of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from forested watersheds and associated biogeochemical processes and impacts on drinking water supplies. Specifically, the temporal variations of DOM exported from watersheds under prescribed burn or mechanical thinning will be examined and compared to determine how they form regulated and emerging carbonaceous and nitrogenous disinfection byproducts (DBPs) with DOM from unmanaged watersheds. The overarching goal of this project is to identify the best forest management practices to protect our source waters due to climate change.


The approach consists of three integrated research objectives: i) management practices, ii) landscape processes, and iii) water quality. For the first objective, experimental plots of longleaf pine forests with different fuel reduction practices (prescribed burning and mechanical thinning) and frequency (i.e. 1, 3, >5 years) have been established at two natural reserves in South Carolina. Detritus materials from the experimental plots will be collected for a field incubation study to quantify the production and export of DOM. The second objective will be investigated at several 1st order watersheds at the Santee Experimental Forest in South Carolina and the Clemson Experimental Forest under prescribed burn practices and mechanical thinning that will be closely monitored to evaluate the landscape processes on the fluxes and trends of DOM and nutrients exported after treatment. Selected samples will be further incubated in the laboratory to examine in-stream biogeochemical processes such as the photochemical and algal effects on DOM characterization. For the final objectives, conventional treatment and DBP precursor treatability experiments will be performed. The change in geno- and cyto-toxicity indices will be determined for source waters under different watershed management practices. UV/VIS absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy, Pyrolysis-Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry, 13C-Nuclear Magnetic Resources, and Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry will be used to characterize selected DOMs.

Expected Results:

The proposed study will provide detailed characterizations of both DOM and the precursors of selected DBPs produced under different fuel reduction techniques and environmental conditions.  A box model describing exports of DOM and its consequence on water quality under different watershed management practices will be developed.  Results of the study will also delineate their treatability and DBP reactivity in source water supplies, and our field studies will improve scientific knowledge in DOM biogeochemistry and watershed management. The findings will also be of use to water treatment facilities that use different management practices for managing waters drained from watersheds.   Overall, the project is expected to raise the level of understanding of the importance of forest resources our drinking water supplies and also identify the best management practices to protect forest resources against wildfire.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 20 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Drinking Water, Disinfection Byproducts, Sustainable Water Management, Source Water Control

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2017 Progress Report
  • 2018 Progress Report