Clean water: the byproduct of a healthy forest
Forests play a vital role in the hydrological cycle
Most of the water used by people, fish and wildlife in Idaho flows from our public and private forest lands. Forests play a vital role in the hydrological cycle, as they regulate the flow and purification of water for human consumption.
Do you know where your water comes from? It’s not the faucet or the water plant. Most of Idaho’s municipal water systems use water that originates from forestlands, including those managed for wood production. The quality of this water is among the best in the nation! Next time you take a sip of water or a warm shower, think about the forest where that water started and remember, healthy forests keep streams clean and water quality high.
FOREST FACT: Most of Idaho’s municipal water systems use water that originates from forestlands, including those managed for wood production.
Forests help store and cleanse the water that flows through them, acting as sponges, retarding snow melt so that it can slowly be released during the warmer summer months.
Laws protect our water
There are special rules and laws to protect water quality during harvest and Idaho’s forest professionals work hard to follow them. Laws require that stands of trees along the banks of creeks and streams remain as streamside buffer areas. These areas help protect fish spawning beds, keep the water cool, and provide cover and habitat for birds and wildlife. Forest managers pay special attention to riparian habitat along streams, which are managed to keep water cool and reduce sediment to enhance salmon and steelhead habitat.
What is a watershed?
The University of Idaho extension service defines a watershed as the entire area of land that delivers water, sediment, debris, and dissolved materials to a particular body of water. Many of Idaho’s watersheds are covered in forests. Forested watersheds are closely tied to the hydrologic cycle, a system of interrelated processes by which water moves through an ecosystem.
A riparian area is the interface between land and a river or stream. The 1974 Idaho Forest Practices Act, a state law that regulates forestland management ensures good stewardship of Idaho’s forests by requiring compliance with strict environmental standards for the protection of water quality in riparian zones. All timber harvest activities within the state must comply with specific environmental regulations. The Idaho Department of Lands enforces the law and continually monitors forest activities for compliance.
Fresh water is in short supply
Pop Quiz! Which of these is made up of 70% water: A human, the earth, or the tree? The answer is, all three! About 70% of every human body is water; about 70% of a tree is water; and water also covers about 70% of the earth’s surface. However, only about 2-3% of the earth’s water is fresh water that humans drink to survive. Trees and humans play a critical role in keeping our water clean.
Click the image to watch a short Forest Fast Break video to learn more about the connection between forests and clean water, or click here.
Forests help store and cleanse the water that flows through them, acting like sponges, retarding snow melt so that it can slowly be released during the warmer summer months.
Click the image to read how forests affect our drinking water or click here.
Download Water & Forests to learn the role that trees play in water quality.
Visit the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to get environmental lesson plans and more resources for teachers.
Read “Idaho Forestry Best Management Practices Field Guide: Using BMPs to Protect Water Quality” here.
Learn about the Mica Creek Experimental Watershed in north Idaho