Forests act to process precipitation into high quality surface waters. In fact, a recent water profile study* (see below) reports that two thirds of freshwater in the U.S. originates from forests. Therefore society and industry have a shared interest in maintaining forests and the water resource benefits of forested land.
But this notion does not preclude us from using trees to deliver on society’s needs for wood and paper products. On the contrary, developing strong markets for wood products can help keep forested land forested.
Forest management programs can help minimize impacts to surface and groundwater by the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs). For example, foresters lay out riparian zones, areas abutting waterways and ponds, that are important for soil stability and filtration. If there is a river or a stream, loggers will create an extensive buffer strip so that there is no cutting in that area. For water crossings, panels are placed over streams so that the water and banks are not disturbed. For smaller streams, culverts are inserted to allow water to continually flow without having any dirt or silt enter into it.
In order to further this understanding, The Sustainable Forestry Initiative announced today that they have awarded a grant to the World Resources Institute (WRI) to research how forest certification standards help protect lakes and rivers.
WRI is working in collaboration with the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, the Willamette Partnership, the American Forest Foundation, and others to advance investment in forests to ensure stable supplies of clean freshwater.
We can treat water with technology – but at what cost to society? And why would we put more steel in concrete in place when our forests can do the job for us?
In other words: more well managed forested land = more clean fresh water.
*Reference: Wiegand, P. S. et al., “Water Profiles of the Forest Products Industry and Their Utility in Sustainability Assessment”. TAPPI Journal: July 2011, p. 19-27.