Chattooga River in the Nantahala National Forest, NC. Photo Credit: Bill Lea
Results from a small-scale experiment in western North Carolina illustrate the importance of National Forest lands in ensuring high water quality in the Southern Appalachian region. Conducted by scientists from the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS), the study, published in the January 2006 issue of the journal Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, showed that the quality of water in streams from an area heavily affected by urbanization was significantly improved by its passage through streams flowing in undeveloped forested areas.
For the experiment, Jim Vose and Barry Clinton, researchers from the SRS Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in Otto, NC, located a setting where a stream carried water from a small town into a fork of the Chattooga River while passing through National Forest land. They set up three sampling sites: the first below the town where the stream enters the National Forest, the second about a mile further down where the stream (now a fork of the Chattooga River) exits the National Forest, and the third reference site on a small, undisturbed stream which lies entirely in the National Forest.
"There’s a waste treatment facility a little over half a mile up from where the stream enters the National Forest," says Clinton. "We chose the first sampling site to pick up the cumulative effects of wastewater treatment and other non-point pollution sources such as housing developments, stormwater runoff, and roads."
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