Pacific Northwest forests protect the abundant, clean water
Well over a third of the water in Oregon and Washington is sourced from National Forest System lands. Forests protect water in many ways, from regulating water temperature to reducing erosion and the size of some floods. In April, the Forest Service will highlight the role forests play in ensuring abundant clean water – from forest to faucet, forest to fish and forest to farm.
Did you know?
Forests provide some of the best-quality water in America. In the Pacific Northwest, water from our 17 national forests sustains drinking water reservoirs that supply many of cities and towns, including Seattle, Portland, Tacoma, Bellingham, Eugene, Salem, Walla Walla, Grants Pass, Bend, Ashland, Pendleton, Lincoln City, La Grande, Baker City, The Dalles, Sumpter, Yachats, Cle Elum, and more.
Research shows the quality of water from forests is typically among the best in the nation, typically better than that flowing through urban, agricultural and industrial areas. Studies show clean water, from our faucets and in our lakes and streams, is the top-ranking environmental issue for residents of the Pacific Northwest.
If you want to fish, you’ll need forests. National Forests are the single largest source of cold water in the Pacific Northwest. There are 25,000 miles of fish-bearing streams in Washington and Oregon National Forests, about 9,500 of which provide habitat for salmon, steelhead trout, and other anadromous fish (or, fish who live in the ocean but spawn in freshwater streams, including Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye salmon). Research shows the shade from forest trees is important to regulating water temperature.
Last year, the Forest Service and its partners performed more than $10 million worth of work, including stream restoration, road and trail maintenance and decommissioning, and fish passage improvements to improve watershed and aquatic habitat. Much of that money flowed back into local communities through contracts to perform restoration-related work. Comprehensive, watershed restoration programs were completed in 7 priority watersheds.
Forests provide fresh air – but did you know they clean water, too? Forests can help filter and process heavy metals (a frequent contaminant from roads) and nitrogen and phosphorous (found in storm runoff from residential and industrial areas, often from fertilizer). Elevated concentrations of heavy metals can be toxic to people and wildlife. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous can contribute to algal blooms – which can be harmful to fish (the algae can capture oxygen they need, creating “dead zones”) and people (some varieties of algae are toxic, which can lead to recreational lake closures).