Drinking Water from Forests and Grasslands: A Synthesis of the Scientific Literature

When we turn on the faucet, we expect to see clear water, clean and ready to drink. Report of a communitys water supply being interrupted by a water main break or contaminated by a flood makes the news. Yet more and more Americans drink bottled or filtered water, carrying it to work, ordering it in restaurants. The purity of our drinking water no longer strikes everyone as a given. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendment of 1996 established a time line to assess the status of all drinking water sources across the country and to publish the results by 2003. Southern Research Station scientists joined scientists and land managers from across the Forest Service to write "Drinking Water from Forests and Grasslands: A Synthesis of the Scientific Literature". Edited by water quality consultant George E. Dissmeyer, this publication aims to assist forest and grassland managers in their efforts to comply with the SDWA. It reviews and synthesizes the scientific literature about how the management of Forest Service lands affects public drinking water sources.

We rely on forests and grasslands as sources of clean drinking water for two reasons: (1) forests mainly grow under conditions that produce relatively reliable water runoff; and (2) properly managed forests and grasslands can yield water relatively low in contaminants when compared with many urban and agricultural land uses. Approximately 3,400 towns and cities depend on National Forest System watersheds for their public water supplies. About 60 million Americans served by public water supplies live in communities that draw source water from national forests and grasslands.

The research focuses on potential contamination of source water associated with ordinary land uses in national forests and grasslands. This book aims to inform managers about specific effects of land-use practices on drinking water, giving them the best tools with which to decide how to protect human health by protecting drinking water

Contact: Claire Payne
North Central Research Station

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