Forests Protect Water

Healthy Forests Provide for Water Quality and Quantity

Forests play an important role in providing clean water. More than 50% of Virginia’s freshwater resources originate from forests that cover about two-thirds of the state. In addition to providing clean water, forests also absorb rainfall, refill groundwater aquifers, slow and filter stormwater runoff, reduce floods, and maintain watershed stability and resilience.

No other land use provides clean water like forests. These water supply benefits come from all forests, whether young or old, pine or hardwood. Sediment, nutrients, and other pollutants, including bacteria and other pathogens are almost always higher from other land uses, especially urban areas. Once forests are established, they continue to provide clean and reliable sources of water for decades. Fortunately, they can also be managed for a variety of products and priorities (e.g., timber, wildlife, and recreation) without negatively impacting water resources. Foresters use a variety of techniques, called best management practices (BMPs), that allow roads, hiking trails, prescribed fire, timber harvesting, and other management activities to be conducted without impacting water resources.

Forest landowners and forest operators can benefit from the use of best management practices and pre-harvest planning to protect the water resources.


Your local VDOF forester can help guide you through the timber sale process and assist you with incorporating proper BMPs to protect water quality during the implementation of a forestry practice on your property, as well as provide guidance about planting riparian forest buffers.

Find a VDOF Forester


Additional Resources

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Herd Health
Herd Health

Brochure by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation provides tips for keeping cattle healthy through better watering techniques.

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Riparian Forest Buffers - Forests on the Water's Edge
Riparian Forest Buffers – Forests on the Water’s EdgeP00140

Publication is the effort of the Chesapeake Bay Program, including multiple states within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, to educate the community leaders and the public about the benefits of riparian forest Buffers, their importance to watersheds for air quality, water quality and fish and wildlife habitat, forest Buffer losses and how we manage growth in riparian zones, how to maintain quality riparian forest Buffers, efforts in riparian forest restoration, and what you can do for forest Buffers. Printed copies available.

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Services for Landowners
Services for LandownersP00112

Brochure provides information about the services available to landowners from the Virginia Department of Forestry, including forest management and Forest Health, timber harvesting and water quality, land conservation, tree seedling production, and resource protection. Printed copies available.

Viewfire-and-emergency-response forest-health forest-management forestland-conservation nurseries urban-and-community-forestry water-qualitypublication
Stormwater to Street Trees
Stormwater to Street Trees

EPA publication explores engineering urban forests for stormwater management.

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Virginia's Forestry Best Management Practices for Water Quality - Field Guide
Virginia’s Forestry Best Management Practices for Water Quality – Field GuideP00134

Technical field guide provides a convenient pocket instruction guide for timber harvesters to protect water quality when harvesting timber and comply with applicable laws. Printed copies available.

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Virginia's Forestry Best Management Practices for Water Quality - Technical Guide - Fifth Edition
Virginia’s Forestry Best Management Practices for Water Quality – Technical Guide – Fifth EditionP00104

Technical guide provides detailed instruction for timber harvesters to protect water quality when harvesting timber and comply with applicable laws. Printed copies available.

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Why Plant Forest Buffer? - Planting Riparian Forest Buffer is Real Forestry
Why Plant Forest Buffer? – Planting Riparian Forest Buffer is Real ForestryFT0013

Forestry topic information sheet emphasizes the importance of riparian Buffers to protect waterways, including what are riparian Buffers, riparian Buffer implementation, and cost-share programs available, such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

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Contact Us

Your local VDOF forester can help guide you through the timber sale process and assist you with incorporating proper BMPs to protect water quality during the implementation of a forestry practice on your property, as well as provide guidance about planting riparian forest buffers. Contact your local VDOF forester.

For more information or questions, e-mail us or use our contact form.