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Quantifying the Role of State and Private Forest Lands in Providing Surface Drinking Water Supply for the Southern U.S.

Photo of Throughout Region 8, a large number of streams receive the majority of water from State and private forest lands (SPF).

Throughout Region 8, a large number of streams receive the majority of water from State and private forest lands (SPF). Snapshot : Forested land owned by states or private and family owners makes up about 44 % of the total land area in the South. This study highlights the connection between state and private forests (SPF) and the drinking water supply in the South. The study reveals that SPF lands contributed more than 44 %of the water supply generated in the region.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Sun, GeCaldwell, Peter V.
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2020
Highlight ID : 1732


Forests provide the most stable and highest quality water supplies among all land uses. The southern U.S. is heavily forested and the fastest growing region in the nation. Therefore, it is critical to understand the role of forested lands in providing water across the South. Approximately 55 million people in the South – about half the population – derive some portion of their drinking water from state and private forest (SPF) lands. This study provides a systematic assessment of the interactions among water, forests, and people. Findings highlight the connections between SPF lands, water supply in the South, and the need for sound forest management to ensure clean and stable water supplies for southern communities now and in the future. In addition to peer-reviewed publications, the researchers produced a collection ofArcGIS Story Maps with the South Carolina Forestry Commission. The collection includes interactive maps, data tables, and videos for each of the 13 states and across the South. The goal was to provide resource managers with information needed to show the important role state and private forest lands play in provisioning drinking water for southerners. Because of the innumerable water-related benefits of forest lands, many water supply authorities seek to maintain forest lands in their watersheds. Healthy forested watersheds protect drinking water quality and minimize water treatment costs.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Paul V. Bolstad - University of Minnesota
  • Stacy Nelson - North Carolina State University