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Forest and Water Programme

Food security is dependent on water security. And water security is dependent on forests. Approximately 75 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater for agricultural, domestic, industrial and environmental uses comes from forests, with 90 percent of the world's cities relying on forested watersheds for their water supply. Forests and trees are essential to maintaining resilient production systems, communities and ecosystems. They are vital to our water supply, providing high quality water resources: they intercept atmospheric moisture, contribute to cloud and rain formation, reduce erosion and recharge groundwater. However, changes in climate and land-use are contributing to altered groundwater and base flows locally, and precipitation regionally. Global hydrosheds - major watersheds - have experienced 40 percent tree cover loss, resulting in increased risk to water stress, erosion and forest fires.

With approximately 80% of the world population facing water insecurity, the management of forests for water is increasingly important. Using forests to produce high quality water can cost as low as $2 per person per year. Yet, 75 percent of the world's forests are not managed for water conservation. The relationship between forest and water resources needs to be addressed through integrated management and policies, supported by scientific understanding.


The Forest and Water Programme

The Forest and Water Programme acknowledges the importance of forests in the broader landscape and aims to mainstream considerations for water-related ecosystem services in sustainable forest management.

The programme takes a holistic approach, integrating forest and water science, policy and practice. It advocates for recognition of forest–water interactions and the role of trees and forests in maintaining resilient landscapes and providing high-quality water resources, in different climatic zones and forest ecosystems and at different landscape scales.


Celebrating forests and water
International Forest Day, 21 March 2016

Forests are vital to our water supply. They influence how and where rain falls, and they filter and clean our water. By protecting the world’s forests, we are also protecting the clean water that we depend upon for our survival.

Every year on the International Day of Forests we celebrate the ways in which forests and trees sustain and protect us. This year we are raising awareness of how forests are key to the planet’s supply of freshwater, which is essential for life.

In Depth

Life and Nature (Cambodia)
Monitoring Framework Workshop
Fouta Djallon Highlands (West Africa)