Healthy forests are critically important for protecting water supplies.

Forests and Water

Forests play an important role in providing clean water.  More than 50 percent of the nation's freshwater resources originate from forests that cover about one-third of the United States. In addition to providing clean water, forests also absorb rainfall, refill groundwater aquifers, slow and filter stormwater runoff, reduce floods and maintain watershed stability and resilience.

Several municipalities and water utilities have already recognized the important role forests play in supplying fresh drinking water, and, as such, have taken action to conserve these critical landscapes.  Efforts are underway to explore these approaches throughout the South.

Approximately 89 percent of the South's forestland is privately-owned, making it the nation's stronghold for private forestland ownership.  To sustain healthy forests and protect water resources, viable economic markets, careful forest management and well-targeted forest, conservation efforts are critical.

Explore the relationship between forests and drinking water with this video series

The Forest Water Relationship

Forest/Water Relationship Infographic

Forests and water brochure
Published by the Southern Research Station, this brochure highlights the importance of forested watersheds in protecting water quality.

Explore water resource websites by state

Learn about forest to faucet resources across the South


Best Management Practices

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are the principal means by which water resources are protected during careful forest management. These conservation practices are designed to provide an economical way of protecting soil and water resources -- two key elements necessary for growing a healthy, sustainable and productive forest. BMPs can include methods, such as leaving a buffer zone of trees next to a stream; properly sizing and installing a culvert or bridge to cross a waterway; establishing grass on forest roads to prevent erosion, and many other practices, that have been tested and proven effective over the years.

SGSF and state forestry agencies provide leadership in BMP development, education, training and monitoring.

Manual of Best Management Practices by state

BMP Implementation Monitoring Protocol for the Southern Region

BMP Monitoring Reports for the Southern Region:

SGSF Water Resources poster
A snapshot of the Southern Region efforts to promote forestry BMPs


Forest and Water Policy

SGSF routinely provides guidance and technical assistance to other organizations on forest water resource policy and regulation.

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