Clean Water

Trees are Nature’s Water Filters

Water is an increasingly valuable natural resource, and private forest owners play a critical role in keeping it cool, clean, and abundant. Trees help keep erosion and pollution from flowing into surface water systems like streams and rivers. They also slow rainwater down, sending more water into underground supplies.


Private forests supply 30% of our drinking water

The water supplies for rural and urban communities around the country come through forested watersheds, where forests act as a natural filtration system. According to the U.S. Forest Service, privately owned forests supply nearly 30 percent of the water we drink. In most cases, private forest owners provide these cost-saving environmental benefits to the public for free.

Many urban areas rely on forested watersheds for drinking water

The quality of water from some forested watersheds is so high that it does not need to be filtered at all. In many major cities, forested watersheds “upstream” are widely recognized as valuable natural infrastructure – reducing the need for expensive manmade filtration systems. New York City, for example, has long relied on forested watersheds in the Catskill Mountains to provide one of the highest quality metropolitan drinking water supplies in the world. By investing in their forests, the state was able to forego building and maintaining a new water filtration plant, saving billions of dollars.

Forestry Maximizes Clean Water Benefits

Active forest management protects water systems and maximizes the forests’ natural ability to clean the water.

Private forest owners implement best management practices (BMPs) that are designed by state forestry agencies to protect water quality and maintain water quantity. State BMPs, tailored to the specific conditions and needs within a state or region, address such things as harvesting, planting, and roads. Forestry BMPs are widely regarded as an effective tool for water quality.

Read More from NAFO

Clean Air: Trees are nature’s own solution to carbon

A Renewable Resource:  Wood is the ultimate natural resource

Working Forests:  The economic engine for rural communities

What Others Are Saying

U.S. Forest Service on forests and water

National Association of State Foresters on water and water quality best management practices

World Resources Institute on why forests are valuable green infrastructure