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From the Forest to the Faucet

Forests are crucial in the production of clean drinking water. Nowhere in the United States is this more true than in the Appalachian region, where heavily forested watersheds supply water to the densely populated Eastern states. The U.S. Forest Service’s Forests to Faucets project is a national-scale spatial assessment identifying forested areas important for surface drinking water and potential risks to those forests posed by development, insects and disease, and wildland fire.

The assessment uses input models for precipitation and evapotranspiration to estimate water supply and estimates water demand from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data on the number of people depending on water from out-takes in different watersheds. Through this supply-and-demand approach, the relative importance of different watersheds is estimated. Data on forest cover is cross-referenced to the water supply and demand model to identify watersheds where forests are most important in the production of heavily utilized drinking water.

Risk models for threatening processes (fire, forest pathogens, and development patterns) are then compared to the forest importance model to determine the levels of threat. This assessment provides spatial data and maps that can help identify areas important for protecting surface water quality in broad-scale planning contexts, and can help identify areas for further local analysis. The supply and demand input models as well as the various importance and risk models can be incorporated in spatial prioritization and decision support tools. Maps generated from these data are also useful as education tools for illustrating links between forests and drinking water.

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Last modified: 
12/16/2015 - 22:05