Creating Healthy Watersheds

Home/Priority Issues: Water

We all rely on forests for clean water. American Forests protects and restores our forested watersheds by enhancing wetlands and augmenting riparian buffers.

With more than 50 percent of U.S. drinking water originating in forests, it is critical to safeguard these resources as increasing human populations require greater amounts of water. Conversely, development driven by human population growth speeds the clearing of forests that purify our water sources.

What’s at stake goes beyond drinking water. More than 300 freshwater species are listed or proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Fish and shellfish for human consumption are at the top of an aquatic food chain that relies on clear, oxygenated water that is free of pollution.

In order for this natural resource to thrive, forests need your help. Please consider becoming an American Forests supporter here.

The purity of the water affects more than the health of the forest itself and its inhabitants. Every 10 percent increase in forest cover in the watershed’s source leads to a 20 percent decrease in costs of water treatment downstream. It all adds up to making watershed protection a very worthwhile investment.

More than half of U.S. drinking water originates in forests.

Source: World Resources Institute

One large tree can capture and filter up to 36,500 gallons of water per year.

Source: USDA, U.S. Forest Service

American Forests is focusing its efforts on two initiatives:

Increasing Riparian Zones

Water is vital to all life, and American Forests is working across the country to make sure our water sources are safe and sustainable with the help of forests. In Vermont, we’re planting forests along stream corridors that cross farms, reducing pollution and securing safe habitats for trout and other freshwater fish. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, annual rainfall amounts to roughly half that of the northeastern part of the country, so water conservation is critical. Our forest restoration projects are slowing water runoff allowing it to be put to use by habitats and people. Our nine projects in 2017 alone will save approximately 9 million liters of water per year.

Solving Urban Water Issues

As urban populations continue to rise, communities are largely affected by the surrounding tree canopy. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey had dramatic impacts on Houston and its nearby neighborhoods. Tremendous damage from flooding and stormwater residue made the need for expanding urban forests in Houston clear. Together with local partners, we’re working to restore trees lost during Harvey and to create a plan of action moving forward.

Our Experts

Rebecca Turner, Chief Strategy Officer

Phone: 202.370.4521
Email Rebecca

Eric Sprague, Vice President of Forest Restoration

Phone: 202.370.4516
Email Eric

Ian Leahy, Vice President of Urban Forestry

Phone: 202.370.4524
Email Ian


American Forests and Alcoa Foundation have partnered to plant trees to improve water quality in Quebec’s St. Lawrence Watershed.

The water you just drank passed through a tree, and we're lucky it does!

Check out our newest project with the Alcoa Foundation to preserve healthy streams and salmon in the Northwest!