New Forest Service maps link healthy drinking water to healthy forests

The U.S. Forest Service today unveiled a comprehensive series of maps that illustrate for the first time the crucial role Front Range forests play in sustaining the watersheds that are most important to the quality of Colorado’s surface drinking water.

The Forests to Faucets interactive maps also identify the extent to which those watersheds are threatened by development, fire, insects and disease. Communities can use the data to help determine the important role their forests play in providing clean drinking water to urban areas.

The Forests to Faucets project will also help identify watersheds where a payment for watershed services project may be an option for financing conservation on forest lands. The cost of treating drinking water increases 20 percent for every loss of 10 percent of forest land in a watershed.

“Spending money on forest management upstream in a watershed saves money on water treatment downstream,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “The Forests to Faucets project provides powerful information that can help identify forest areas that play a key role in providing clean drinking water.”

The project found that forests in the Front Range in Colorado are home to crucial watersheds that provide clean drinking water for millions of Americans.
Watersheds on national forests and grasslands are the source of 20 percent of the nation’s water supply, a value estimated to exceed $27 billion per year. Another 60 percent of the nation’s water flows from private lands.

“We expect Forests to Faucets will support rural economies by steering funding to upstream landowners, encouraging healthy forests and healthy water,” said Tidwell.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

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