BMPs / Forests and Water / Blog
Healthy forests are critically important to protecting our water resources and sustaining them in the future. In fact, forests have a long-standing and well-deserved reputation for protecting water quality. Did you know that one of the primary reasons for establishing most of our National Forests, as well as many of our State Forests, was to protect our country’s water sources?
Trees protect and hold soil in place which prevents it from washing into surface streams, lakes, reservoirs, and other surface waters. They increase the amount of water that is absorbed and stored in the ground, slowing storm water runoff and recharging groundwater aquifers. They filter pollutants before they enter waterways, helping to protect aquatic ecosystems, drinking water supplies, and reducing water treatment costs. They shade streams and other waterways from sunlight, helping to maintain suitable water temperatures for aquatic life. In addition to supplying us with a source of clean and abundant water, forests also provide us with a number of other essential economic, social, and environmental ecosystem services, such as, wildlife habitat, biological diversity, clean air, a sustainable wood supply, carbon sequestration, as well as opportunities for outdoor recreation and education.
While the benefits provided by forests are numerous, they are also constantly at risk. By 2060 Texas’s population is expected to nearly double, leading to significant new challenges. Not only will this forecasted population growth generate an estimated 22% increase in water demands, but it will also lead to increases in impervious cover, pollution, and losses of forestland, resulting in impacts to water quality and supply.
In addition to threats from urbanization, forests and waterways also may become more susceptible to impacts from insects, disease, invasive species, wildfires, and other natural disasters in the future. The Southern Pine Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer, oak wilt, and other pests and diseases have the potential to cause widespread mortality and changes to forest species composition. Invasive riparian species can have significant effects on water quality, quantity, and the health of aquatic ecosystems due to the ways they affect bank stability, water runoff, wildfire susceptibility, and other attributes that can in turn alter watershed functions.
By supporting healthy and sustainable forests we maintain their functionality and the many benefits, services, and products they provide - including clean water. The mission of Texas A&M Forest Service’s Water Resources Program is to protect, conserve, and enhance Texas’ water resources through the sustainable use of forestlands.