Provide abundant, clean water

More than half of America's freshwater flows from public and private forest land, and about 60 million Americans rely on drinking water that originates on the national forests and grasslands. Protecting water resources by sustaining healthy, resilient forests and grasslands provides for a robust and sustainable recreation economy which contributes billions to the U.S. economy every year—ensuring space for outdoor recreation as well as fish and wildlife habitat. Sustaining these ecosystems is also an efficient and cost-effective means of protecting water infrastructure when compared to investment in artificial means of flood control, water purification and other infrastructure.


Key Messages

  • Managed forests provide a clean, sustained flow of water for America's farms, support fish and wildlife for sportsmen, and bolster rural economies.
  • About 60 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated on the national forests and grasslands.
  • Active management of forests and grasslands helps conserve the health of the ecosystems we manage and is a cost-effective means of protecting water infrastructure.
  • Improving and protecting watershed health requires an "All Lands" approach, working with many partners across property boundaries.

Discover More

The USDA Forest Service Center for Watershed Research under the Southern Research Station is headquartered in Otto, NC, with research teams located across the South. Check it out:

Coweeta Basin

Established in 1933 the laboratory represents the longest continuous environmental study on any landscape in North America, as well as one of the oldest gauged watershed sites in the world. It is the only USDA Forest Service outdoor site to carry the "Laboratory" title. (Credit USDA Forest Service)

How Much Water does a tree use?

How to Get Good, Clean Drinking Water: The Big Picture Approach

This video by Untamed Science features the scientists and research at Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory.

Southern Forest Futures Project

The Southern Forest Futures Project determined that a combination of factors has the potential to decrease water availability and degrade quality; forest conservation and management can help mitigate these effects.

The interacting effects of climate change, population growth, intensive forest management practices, and land use change are expected to increase water stress in several areas of the South. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons)

What is a watershed?

What is a watershed? Why is it important?

Fire Impacts

Recent study is the first nationwide look at fire impacts on surface freshwater resources. (Credit USDA Forest Service)

Forests and Drought

Forest provide many important functions to help regulate streamflow, mitigate flooding, and help maintain the water conditions. Drought affects the ability of forests to continue these functions. (Photo Credit USDA Forest Service)