Water Supply

For the last two months, the city of Longmont hasn't had enough fluoride to add to its drinking water.

The temporary suspension is due to a shortage of sodium fluorosilicate. Longmont has added the mineral to its drinking water since 1958, to aid in dental health. Since the last sodium fluoride mine in the country shut down this year, supplies have been restricted along the Front Range.

Tammy Waller thought she was one of the lucky ones after her home in Magalia survived California's most destructive wildfire ever, but her community remains a ghostly skeleton of its former self.

Hazmat crews are still clearing properties, and giant dump trucks haul away toxic debris. Signs on the water fountains in the town hall say, "Don't drink."

Waller remembers the day she came back home after the Camp Fire.

"When I first walked in, I went to my kitchen sink and turned on the water, and it was just literally black," Waller says.

It’s no secret that wildfires are getting worse in the West. They’re threatening lives, homes and ecosystems. And they are also threatening our already-precarious watersheds. It’s all becoming a vicious cycle  — especially for the drier parts of our region. 

This story is part of a collaboration with APM Reports, the investigative unit of American Public Media, and Great Lakes Today.

Luke Runyon / KUNC

We’ve heard it before: The West just doesn’t have enough water to satisfy all the different demands on it. In Colorado, the majority of our water supply comes from mountainous snowpack, which melts each year to fill streambeds and reservoirs.

But could there be another way?

Luke Runyon / KUNC

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Colorado River as an essential part of life in the Western U.S. But the future of the river is shrouded in both optimism and pessimism.

KUNC’s Luke Runyon is moving on from his reporting role with Harvest Public Media to spend the next two years covering the Colorado River.