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How Deforestation Affects Water Quality

We all understand the importance of trees when it comes to ecosystems and climate change, and tree planting schemes are commonplace.

You can even plant trees as you search the internet (well, someone else will do the planting) – the search engine, ecosia, ploughs all its profits into global tree planting schemes.

What isn’t so well known is that deforestation has a direct impact on the safety of our water, decreasing its quality, which has profound implications.

A study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded: “that the effect of deforestation on access to clean drinking water is not trivial”. Although it is commonly accepted that deforestation increases water yield, scientists focused instead on its effect on water quality. In a study that focused on Malawi, they discovered that for every percentage point increase in deforestation, access to clean drinking water decreased by 0.93%. Over the past decade, there has been a 14% increase in deforestation, which is the equivalent of a 9% decrease in rainfall.

Farming, trees and water quality in the UK

The Woodland Trust has published guidance to UK farms, promoting the message that planting trees to protect water quality is a necessity. Modern developments in agricultural technology and practice have resulted in increased field sizes which in turn can lead to flooding and the erosion of topsoil, which is then deposited in streams and rivers, increasing water treatment costs as well as affecting wildlife. This impacts farmers because it means they have to implement time-consuming and costly ways of preparing the soil for crops. In light of the fact that woodland management and forestry operations can affect water quality, the Trust advocated targeted tree planting in order to tackle water pollution and increase water quality.

Last December, the government announced a cash boost of £3.9m to support tree planting schemes around the country to help reduce flooding and help tackle climate change. £1.4m was specifically awarded to the Environment Agency for a ‘woodlands for water’ project that is designed to protect the quality of our rivers.

And in a further boost to the environment and agriculture, Defra has launched a pilot of its proposed Sustainable Farming Incentive, which will be part of the government’s Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery schemes to be launched next year. According to the proposal, these subsidies will be “the biggest change in agricultural policy in half a century”, and will “pay for sustainable farming practices, improve animal health and welfare, improve environmental outcomes, and reduce carbon emissions. They will create habitats for nature recovery and make landscape-scale changes such as establishing new woodland and other ecosystem services”.

The knock-on effect of improving water quality through reforestation is that it will be easier and cheaper to process water to make it safe for drinking, with subsequent savings being passed on to our customers.

As well as ensuring your water quality is spot on, Castle Water can help your business save money and water. Our mission is simple. We’re here to provide an excellent water service at the best possible price.

Call us on 01250 718 700 or contact us here to find out how we can help your business.