With about 66% of the Nation’s scarce freshwater resources originating on forest land, forest ecosystems play a critical role in delivering clean water to the public.
Forests serve as a living sponge to capture, store and slowly release precipitation, thus slowing storm runoff. Forests are also essential in trapping and transforming the chemicals and nutrient deposits that come in the rain, filtering pollutants such as sediments, fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural and urban runoff, and reducing soil erosion.
Water suppliers and municipalities must turn their attention to their upstream water resources because as our population grows, demand for water and other natural resources will increase. The Forest Service estimates that within the next 25 years more than 11 percent (about 44.3 million acres) of the private forests in the contiguous United States will be at risk of conversion to developed uses.
[aside]SEE ALSO: The Value of Water in the U.S.: Improving Water Infrastructure is Imperative [/aside]
Trees can be a solution for maintaining water quality, regulating flows and providing clean drinking water.
The city of Topeka, Kansas, strategically designed its stormwater management projects to incorporate trees, shrubs and grass. The results are a greener city, better stormwater quality, and an estimated 25 percent cost savings. The City of Philadelphia is now working on its own Green City plan which is expected to provide about 250 new jobs annually and up to $8.5 million in water quality and habitat improvements over the next 40 years. It includes a large scale tree initiative to filter and store runoff.
In northwestern Oregon, a local wastewater facility is paying upstream landowners to plant shade trees along the Tualatin River. Instead of installing refrigeration systems at two treatment plants – a $35 million expense with additional annual operating costs, the water utility is investing $6 million in direct landowner incentives to achieve the same water quality goals. With 60% of forested lands being privately owned, payments may offer landowners the necessary additional economic incentive to stay on the land, thereby improving water management.
In "Deeper than Water", director Gabe Askew evokes the preciousness of water through the stunning images of jewels in an unfolding box, suggesting that if we are to truly care for our most valuable resource, we must go beyond digging to find the right crops and planting methods, design more intelligent infrastructure, prioritize ecology and invest in climate science.
Directed by Gabe Askew. Produced by GOOD/Corps. and Hornet. Inc.
Check out Columbia University's CWC and click below to learn more about its projects in India and Brazil.
Every flush is feeding one of Arizona’s largest and most prized wetland projects
Phoenix, along with most high temperature cities, tends to consume a greater amount of water per person per day than the average city’s consumption level. The strain of demand on this precious resource requires thoughtful conservation; in letting nature help with its wastewater treatment, Phoenix has developed an award-winning wetland in return.
The city of Phoenix is the lead partner of the Tres Rios Project, a man made wetland located near the confluence of three rivers. It was created to assist in the tertiary treatment of wastewater from the 91st Avenue WWTP; but the Project has provided many added benefits including the restoration of 1,500 acres for native riparian habitat, flood damage reduction, recreational expansion and environmental education.
[aside]SEE ALSO: Will Your City Run Dry?: Help decrease the risk of water shortage for your city. [/aside]
While water is in high demand to promote growth, sustain industry, and provide life to yards, parks and agricultural areas, creating wetlands in the desert is a challenge. The Tres Rios Project has addressed these challenges by taking advantage of an underutilized source of high quality water – treated wastewater. The city used local, state and federal funding to obtain a pump that diverts wastewater to the 25 acre-section of riverbank called Tres Rios, where the flora and fauna of the wetlands help further clean the already treated effluent.
The first phase was finished in 2007 and according to city water reports, 90% of treated wastewater is now being recycled as potable drinking water, or used for agriculture or landscaping and the Tres Rios has become a home to a diverse animal and plant life. The original 25 acres of the park is currently being expanded to nearly 400.
Calgary is ranked the number one city in the water category in the latest U.S. and Canada Green City Index conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Compared to 26 North American cities, Calgary lost the least amount of water to leakage (4%) and was well below the average consumption of water per person per day.
Since 2003 The City of Calgary has been implementing its 30-in-30 policy of reducing per capita water consumption by 30% over 30 years in order to keep total demand steady as the population grows. Its water efficiency goal is to accommodate Calgary’s future population growth with the same amount of water it removed from the rivers as in 2003, and so far the city is on track to reach that goal.
As part of the plan, and to maximize its return on investment and best enable the city to reach its conservation objectives, the water conservation program is reducing demand in measurable ways including:
Maintaining one of North America’s lowest water main break records -- The city is seeking out and repairing leaks as well as proactively replacing section of old water mains.
Making water meters mandatory -- Local studies show that the introduction of a meter reduces the average household’s water consumption by around 60% and the city expects to finish this project in 2014.
Adding incentives for Calgarians to save water and money -- In 2010 the city issued toilet replacement rebates that have already resulted in water savings of more than 75 million gallons.
Implementing new systems to reuse potable water whenever possible.