WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 9, 2011 AT 10:45 AM EST - The U.S. Forest Service today unveiled a comprehensive series of maps that illustrate for the first time the crucial role forests play in sustaining the watersheds that are most important to the quality of American 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 Appalachian forests critically impact drinking water in East Coast cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. Forests in the Sierras in California and the Front Range in Colorado are also 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.