What’s in Your Drinking Water?

Researchers Ge Sun (left) and Johnny Boggs (right) use a net to collect aquatic species from streams to assess water quality condition during forestry operations. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.
Researchers Ge Sun (left) and Johnny Boggs (right) use a net to collect aquatic species from streams to assess water quality condition during forestry operations. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Turning on the faucet and running a glass of tap water may not spark wonder about its origin, but with one sip youre able to assess its quality. What do you taste?

In the North Carolina Piedmont, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center scientists work to improve water quality and reduce the threat of water source contamination.

Raleigh-based Eastern Threat Center biological scientist Johnny Boggs investigates forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) to help protect water quality. BMPs reduce or prevent sedimentation, polluted runoff, and other nonpoint source pollution, originating from logging activities, agricultural and residential lands, from entering major water sources. BMPs help achieve cleaner water in North Carolina and other states when implemented and used properly.

In 2008, Boggs and partner scientists from the North Carolina Forest Service, North Carolina State University, and Weyerhaeuser began monitoring a BMP method known as streamside management zones (SMZs), strips of vegetation to buffer streams from runoff from roads and other land uses. The rapidly growing Piedmont area, home to six of the largest cities in the central region of the state, needed strategies to purify water supplies impacted by multiple land uses. Researchers are investigating whether 50-foot-wide buffers will help prevent sediment and nutrients from entering surface water such as lakes and rivers.

Boggs is excited to lead the Eastern Threat Centers effort and collaboratively evaluate the positive effects of BMPs. “I am very interested in the immediate impact this work will have,” says Boggs. State agencies are looking for ways to reduce or minimize water contamination during forestry operations, and he feels forestry BMPs are the answer.

“Federal, state, and private organizations share a common desire to assure that current BMPs are adequately protecting our forest water resources,” says Steve McNulty, research ecologist and Eastern Threat Center Raleigh team leader. “When the North Carolina Forest Service sought assistance from us to help assess current practices, we were happy to join the partnership effort.”

Preliminary data leads Boggs to believe that, “The 50-foot boundary is effectively reducing common water pollutants, which will be our final conclusion if existing runoff patterns remain consistent.” Monitoring will continue into 2013 to confirm the accuracy of the data.

“The most direct benefit resulting from the partnership is improved water quality, which in turn benefits aquatic species and enhances human health,” says Boggs. “Forestry BMPs help bring us a step closer to cleaner drinking water at a reduced cost in the Raleigh area and throughout the Piedmont.”

Read more about the Piedmont research.

For more information, email Johnny Boggs at jboggs@fs.fed.us.

From the EFETAC Forest ThreatNet, Volume 6, Issue 1 – Spring 2013

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