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Study: Future Water Supply and Arkansas Story Map

by Stephanie Siegel, USDA Forest Service Contract Science Writer • November 18, 2021

“Water from forests is of good quality and easier to treat compared to water from other land uses,” says Caldwell. This is an ecosystem service that private forest landowners provide for downstream communities in the South, however, they typically are not compensated for this service.

“It’s important to start thinking about how private forest landowners could be supported for the ecosystem services they provide so that they can keep their forested land forested rather than converting it to other more profitable land uses or selling it to be subsequently developed,” says Caldwell.

Caldwell named two groups focusing on this work along with the USDA Forest Service: the Southeastern Partnership for Forests & Water and a 13-state southern forest conservation initiative called Keeping Forests.

Caldwell serves on a subgroup of Keeping Forests that thinks of ways to compensate landowners for ecosystem services that forests provide—like clean water. “People are getting behind this idea, especially in the South,” says Caldwell.


Quantifying the role of State and private forest lands in drinking water.

"in the South, more than 80 percent of forest lands are privately owned. In 2012, the Southern Forest Futures Project estimated that 23 million acres of southern forest would be replaced by urban land uses by 2057."

"Water that runs off forests needs less cleaning than urban runoff to make it safe to drink. Water from towns and farms has more sediment and chemicals and therefore costs more money to treat to drinking water standards."

Have you seen the Arkansas Story Map? Learn more by clicking this link or the map below about the role of state and private forest lands in Arkansas, average water yields, and population served by private forested lands.

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