Arbor Day and every day: Trees essential to clean drinking water

On this National Arbor Day, when the nation and much of the world are celebrating trees and the many benefits they provide, Texas A&M Forest Service is focusing on the connection between forests and drinking water.

Half of the fresh water produced in Texas comes from forested lands. Forests clean rainwater runoff by filtering out oils, chemicals, pollutants and other elements that contaminate surface water. However, they also reduce flooding, protect waterways from erosion and limit extreme temperature changes.

“By protecting forested freshwater sources, we can help ensure that Texans will have access to clean water for generations to come,” said Shane Harrington, Texas A&M Forest Service Water Resources Program Leader.

Forests produce a vast array of environmental and physical benefits for human beings, and Texas A&M Forest Service’s Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives Initiative highlights the connection between community trees, forests and human health. Clean drinking water is just one of those benefits, but it is an incredibly important one.

“On Arbor Day, we emphasize the importance of conserving and managing our forests and urban tree canopy to positively affect human health,” said Harrington “That includes the ways trees care for our health through clean water.”

Forests and trees filter toxic pollutants from groundwater through a process called phytoremediation, which can contain toxic environmental contaminates, remove them or render them harmless. This process has been shown to reduce the development of harmful algal bloom that may affect the nervous system, and to decrease human exposure to heavy metals that can lead to liver and kidney disease. It also results in lower bacterial concentrations of E. coli in streams and rivers that are surrounded by forests.

“Water is a vital natural resource, and forests are paramount to protecting it,” said Harrington. “What a great opportunity this Arbor Day to get out and learn about trees and how they protect and affect us and our water.”

In most states, National Arbor Day is celebrated the last Friday in April, but a number of states (Texas included) celebrate Arbor Day at other times of the year to coincide with the best tree planting weather.

The official celebration for Texas Arbor Day is the first Friday in November in a different host city each year. Under the leadership of the Texas Forestry Association, Texas first observed Arbor Day in 1889, celebrating the benefits that trees provide over a lifetime. Today, the Texas State Arbor Day is sponsored by Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Forestry Association and the Texas Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.

Learn more about the forest and water relationship at and check out the Texas Arbor Day celebration at


This guest article was written by Linda Moon, communications manager for the Texas A&M Forest Service. Cover photo courtesy of the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Guest Author

Linda Moon, communications manager, Texas A&M Forest Service

By Linda Moon, communications manager, Texas A&M Forest Service

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