Clear-Cutting Near Watersheds Threatens Drinking Water Supplies: Greens

"Water shortages in Oregon coastal cities could be prevented if clear-cutting forests around watersheds was eliminated, according to environmentalists".

"By August, residents of coastal Newport were put on mandatory water curtailment due to low stream flows. That same month, the city of Yamhill, 30 miles southwest of Portland, enforced water use restrictions on pools and lawns when Turner Creek, its primary water source, dropped to significantly low levels.

The blow of late summer drought could have been lessened and perhaps avoided if the forests around those watersheds that provide drinking water had been kept intact, according to Casey Kulla, a state forests policy coordinator at the nonprofit conservation group Oregon Wild. State forestry leaders say Oregon law is focused more on regulating logging to protect drinking water quality, rather than quantity.

“The number of trees of a certain age on the landscape, and the amount of logging that’s done in a watershed, directly affects the timing of water coming out of the stream at the bottom of the watershed,” Kulla said. Kulla accompanied the Capital Chronicle on a plane tour sponsored by the Colorado-based nonprofit environmental organization LightHawk, over logged private forests, the Tillamook Forest and the Siuslaw National Forest to show the impact of clear-cutting.

A recent study by the U.S. Forest Service found that about 90% of people in the West are served by public drinking water systems that rely on water that originates in national forests and grasslands, sometimes transported hundreds of miles from points of origin to flow into taps. The federal researchers found “unequivocally” that forested land provides the cleanest, most stable water supply of any land type."

Alex Baumhardt reports for the Oregon Capital Chronicle October 17, 2023.

Source: Oregon Capital Chronicle, 10/19/2023