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.

In Focus

Life and Nature (Cambodia)

Strengthening the adaptive capacity and resilience of rural communities using micro-watershed approaches

Capacity Development

Understanding the forest-water nexus is vital for sustainable forest management. Capacity development is the key to success.

Fouta Djallon Highlands

Ensuring the sustainable management of forest and water interactions and the development of resilience livehoods

Unasylva 251 - Forests: nature-based solutions for water

Water - drinkable, usable water - is likely to be one of the most limiting resources in the future, given the growing global population, the high water demand of most agricultural production systems, and the confounding effects of climate change. We need to manage water wisely - efficiently, cost-effectively and equitably - if we are to avoid the calamity of a lack of usable water supply.

Forested watersheds provide an estimated 75 percent of the world's accessible freshwater resources, on which more than half the Earth's people depend for domestic, agricultural, industrial and environmental purposes. Forests therefore, are vital natural infrastructure, and their management can provide "nature-based solutions" for a range of water-related societal challenges. This edition of Unasylva explores that potential.