SVN Statement on Drinking Watershed Resolutions

In the Drinking Watershed Resolution, SVN and others have asked the Forest Service to identify and manage the health of entire drinking watersheds, not just perimeters around public reservoirs or buffers on streams.

Currently, management of water resources occurs after the fact, in the form of mitigation of activities involving other resources, e.g. a new road or trail. We ask the Forest Service to look beyond the Best Management Practices Virginia requires of private landowners who harvest timber on private land. We should have higher standards for the management of public land that was acquired in part for the purpose of water quality improvement and protection.

While the Forest Service notes no current problems with drinking water resources, the management plan will be in effect for 15 years. With 260,000 Virginia residents dependent on forest drinking water sources and many more likely to need these resources in the future, it just seems prudent to ask the Forest Service to more comprehensively identify and plan for the forest’s drinking watersheds.

The Forest Service has implied that it is acceptable for management practices in drinking watersheds to degrade water quality because “the water can be treated before distribution.” But Virginia’s municipalities should not have to bear the cost of such treatment when they can be avoided through the best possible forest management.