Forests & Water
The human population continues to increase, requiring more and more water, but also clearing away more of the forests that purify it. Hundreds of aquatic species are in danger of becoming extinct because of habitat loss and human activity. Years of accumulated pollution and deforestation have turned some of our nation’s most treasured rivers and bays into toxic waters.
Why We Care
Forest health, particularly that of national forests, is directly related to the quantity and quality of water in the US. In fact, 60% of fresh water in this country comes from forests. Trees catch rain as it falls, filtering and cleansing it before it reaches the underground aquifers that supply our wells and city water systems. As human populations increase and require more clean water, we will have to rely more than ever on forests to provide it.
National forests are also the last available habitat for many threatened and endangered aquatic species. Of all native fish species alone, 37% are in danger of becoming extinct. These species rely on the protected conditions of national forests to maintain large enough populations to survive.
Chesapeake Bay. Potomac River. Puget Sound. These familiar names are all known for two things: their natural beauty and their exceptionally high levels of pollution. One of the largest contributors is the agricultural and industrial runoff that enters these bodies of water when natural buffers like trees and forests are not there to slow and purify the runoff.
One of the best things that we can do to make sure future generations have enough clean water is to protect and enhance the forests that provide it. That is why many of our projects each year take place in national forests, which supply so much of our nation’s fresh water. We also advocate in the policy arena for national forests to be recognized as the valuable water resources that they are, and to be managed and protected as such.
On public and private lands alike, forests perform a vital public service by supplying and filtering our water. That is why we advocate that landowners receive payments or other economic incentives to keep their land forested.
American Forests also recognizes that the water supply needs to be protected at its source. One way we can do this is to restore the ailing whitebark pine ecosystems that shade and stabilize the snowpack in western mountains. This allows nature to manage the rate at which the snow melts, and feed fresh, clean water into the rivers all year long.
What You Can Do
- Be aware of how much water you use. Wasted water means a heavier strain on our forests.
- Work with local volunteer groups to plant trees in your neighborhood that will help manage storm water runoff.
- Act Now to show support for prioritizing the health of our nation’s forests and watersheds.
- Contribute to American Forests to help us continue restoring forests and advocating for their protection and recognition as water sources.