Forests to Faucets 2.0

Standing on the banks of the Yadkin River in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the river tumbles peacefully by. The river water has made a long journey: it originated as rainfall deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It flows through the Uwharrie, Sumter, and Francis Marion National Forests. It travels through Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and Charleston…  More 

Future water supply depends on forested lands

Forests provide cleaner water than any other land cover type. Around 60 million people in the U.S. get more than half of their surface drinking water from forested lands. In Environmental Research Letters, USDA Forest Service ORISE hydrology fellow Ning Liu and colleagues break down the contributions of U.S. forests to surface drinking water supplies.…  More 

Impacts of Urbanization on U.S. Watersheds

Urbanization is inevitable with a growing population, but what consequences does this have for the water we rely on? Cheng Li, a former visiting scholar at North Carolina State University from the Guangdong Academy of Sciences, along with USDA Forest Service scientists Ge Sun, Peter Caldwell, and Erika Mack modeled the effects of urbanization on…  More 

Water Supply from Southern State and Private Forest Lands

Forests provide the most stable and highest quality water supplies among all land uses. A report by the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service quantifies the role of state and private forest lands (SPF) in providing drinking water supply across the southern United States. About half of the South’s land area is forested,…  More 

Groundwater Recharge in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley

The Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley is a floodplain that spans seven states. It is suffering from groundwater depletion – a long-term water level decline due to human use. Irrigation and overuse of water resources have led to a seven meter drop in groundwater levels from 1987 to 2014. Water from precipitation and other sources…  More 

Modeling Study on Cattle Feed Crops & River Flow Depletion

A new study uses a USDA Forest Service modeling tool – the Water Supply Stress Index, or WaSSI, ecosystem services model – to explore the relationship between water use, river flows, and fish populations across the conterminous U.S. Brian Richter from the University of Virginia led the study. SRS researcher Peter Caldwell’s expertise with WaSSI…  More 

Forests Supply Water to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s forests are still recovering from Hurricane Maria. Local scientists estimate that one out of five trees in the El Yunque National Forest were lost during or after the storm. Widespread forest restoration and monitoring efforts are underway. But that work isn’t focused on just the trees in those forests — water supply is an important ecosystem…  More 

Projections of Future Climate and Annual Runoff

Hydrologists have traditionally relied on historic precipitation data to estimate broad-scale runoff. “Rainfall was always number one,” says USDA Forest Service scientist Ge Sun. “But things are changing and getting more complicated.” Sun co-authored a recent modeling study that investigated how other climate factors might influence future changes in runoff. The researchers were intrigued by…  More 

Megafires, Wildland Fires, and Prescribed Burns

Healthy forests are important for clean and abundant water supplies. A recent USDA Forest Service study examined how wildland fires, including megafires, and prescribed burns affect river flow. The study is the first nationwide look at fire impacts on surface freshwater resources. Led by Dennis Hallema, research hydrologist and ORISE fellow, the research team analyzed…  More 

New Forest, New Water Yield

Today, forests abound in the southern Appalachians. However, there was a time in the early 1900s when many forests were harvested or cleared so that the land could be used to grow crops or provide pasture. “The forests that have returned may use water differently,” says U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Katherine Elliott. Elliott and…  More