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Forests, Water and People Analysis

FINAL REPORT, STATE MAPS AND FACT SHEETS AVAILABLE

  • You can download the final report here.
  • For state-specific maps and fact sheets, click here.
  • The final watershed data and the datasets used in this analysis, including UPDATED datasets, can be downloaded here.
map showing the ability to produce clean water
This map shows the ability of 540 watersheds in the Northeast and Midwest to produce clean water. This ability is represented by an index of water quality and watershed integrity that characterizes the biophysical conditions of each watershed. The greater a watershed's ability to produce clean water, the more blue it appears on the map and the higher its score.

WHAT IS THE ANALYSIS?

The Forests, Water and People analysis uses maps produced in a geographic information system (GIS) to highlight the connection between forests and the protection of surface drinking water quality. This connection of "forest to faucet" is of vital importance to people in the Northeast and Midwest. Forests are the crucial first barrier to protection of drinking water, and managing forests for source water protection is becoming more important as the population and water demand increase. Approximately 50 to 75 percent of the region’s population relies on surface water as their municipal drinking water source – more than 52 million people receive clean drinking water from nearly 1,600 community water systems. These water supplies are protected largely by private forest lands. This analysis identifies these water supplies and the forests that protect them.

FOUR-STEP PROCESS

The analysis developed maps for 540 watersheds* in the Northeast and Midwest, using a four-step process to describe current and future conditions.

Step 1 evaluated physical and biological factors, and produced an index of the ability to produce clean water for each watershed. This index provides a comparative ranking of predicted water quality and watershed integrity.

Step 2 shows the total water consumers served by surface water supplies in each watershed and scores these watersheds in terms of their importance in providing drinking water to the greatest number of people.

map showing the importance of watersheds for drinking water supplies
This map shows the importance of watersheds for drinking water supplies for each of 540 watersheds in the Northeast and Midwest. It highlights those areas that provide surface drinking water to the greatest number of consumers. The higher a watershed's ability to provide drinking water, the darker brown it appears on the map and the higher its score.

Step 3 highlights watersheds that are both critical for water supply to a large population and contain a high percentage of unprotected private forest lands.

Finally, Step 4 highlights areas where the greatest development pressure threatens private forests that are important to the protection of surface drinking water supplies.

There are 540 8-digit HUC, or Hydrologic Unit Code, watersheds in the Northeast and Midwest. The United States is divided and sub-divided into successively smaller hydrologic units. The hydrologic units are arranged within each other, from the smallest to the largest. Each hydrologic unit is identified by a unique hydrologic unit code consisting of two to twelve digits based on the level of classification in the hydrologic unit system.

WHY THIS ANALYSIS WAS DONE

The analysis was done in order to enable the Forest Service to accomplish a wide range of goals related to forests and water supplies:

  • Maximize the protection and enhancement of forests, drinking water supplies, public health, and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Target Forest Service resources to priority watershed areas
  • Assist in developing Forest Legacy Program, Forest Stewardship, and other conservation and on-the-ground stewardship programs.
  • Provide a meaningful evaluation for water quality in regional and national Forest Service applications.
  • Aid states in developing their Forest Resource Assessments and Strategies and other planning efforts, such as the criteria and indicators sustainability assessments.

map showing the development pressure on forests and drinking water supplies
This map shows the development pressure on forests and drinking water supplies. The map combines maps of the ability to produce clean water, surface drinking water consumers served, percent private forest land, and housing conversion pressure, to highlight important water supply protection areas that are at the highest risk for future development. The greater a watershed's development pressure, the more blue it appears on the map, and the higher its score.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This analysis was accomplished through an ongoing partnership between the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the University of Massachusetts Forest to Faucet Partnership. The authors of the report are Martina Barnes, Regional Planner, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry; Dr. Paul K. Barten, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts–Amherst; Albert H. Todd, FS Assistant Director, Ecosystem Services and Markets; and Rebecca Whitney Lilja, GIS Analyst, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry.

QUESTIONS

Please e-mail questions to martinabarnes@fs.fed.us

 

 
 
Page Contact: Keith Tackett
May 18, 2011 12:22 PM