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How Trees Contribute to Water Conservation

Written by John Sepulveda, Certified Arborist WI-1454A

When we think of trees as a vital part of the ecosystem and environment, we often think of their benefits as shade trees, clean air providers and homes for wildlife. Did you know that trees also help with water conservation? Trees help with drought and flood prevention, and they also contribute to clean drinking water. Read on to find out how they do it.

Trees, Rain and Groundwater

Trees are composed of 50% water, similar to how our bodies are 60% water. They use this water to produce carbohydrates for their own use, and they also give off oxygen and excess water as water vapor which will eventually return to water sources like lakes and rivers as rain. On average a 100-foot tree can take 11,000 gallons of water per year from the soil and release it into the a process called transpiration. The water enters the tree through the roots and is transported up to the leaves via xylem - the water-moving cells in a tree.

When water enters the roots of a tree it brings pollutants with it. Trees can filter out up to 90% of pollutants from water. This filtering is not only good for the good ecosystem – it also saves cities and other municipalities billions of dollars that would have been spent cleaning water. Trees also help replenish groundwater by slowing erosion and water speed so that the water can permeate the soil and re-enter the water table. According to American Forests, more than half of the drinking water in the U.S. comes from forests that retain rainwater or allow it to slowly seep back into groundwater sources.

Trees, Floods and Drought

Did you know that 40% or more of the rain that originates over land is from transpiration by trees and plants? Deforestation leads to irregular rainfall patterns that in turn can lead to floods and drought. Scientists have discovered that when land is cleared of trees, it soaks up more heat and pulls in humid air which then increases rain in the deforested area. At the same time, fewer trees means less water is released into the air overall, which can lead to drought over the larger region.

The loss of forests opens up land to heavy erosion which can lead to property damage and loss of minerals and nutrients that are vital for trees and other plants. This erosion exacerbates poor water quality since dirt and other pollutants can get into rivers and water systems. In urban environments water travels on roads and into sewers to reach a river or other bodies of water. This in turn leads to higher pollution levels in the water and more erosion due to the water not seeping into ground water but instead rushing along and taking soil and other substances with it.

Trees are a staple of landscapes, forests, and other environments. However, with the development of natural land into urban and suburban areas, and factors like emerald ash borer and fungal diseases like Rhizosphaera needle cast, the urban canopy is declining. According to the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. loses about 175,000 acres of tree cover in urban areas per year. That’s roughly 36 million trees per year.

Increase the Tree Canopy in Your Neighborhood

At Hoppe we believe the world needs more trees. Our landscape division plants thousands of trees for customers every year, and our plant health care team works to preserve the health and longevity of many more.

Trees provide so many benefits for our families, our communities and the world we live in. If you’d like explore ideas for planting trees and shrubs at your home, give us a call at 414.257.2111. Our certified arborists can recommend the right trees for your location – species that will satisfy your goals for planting, and are insect- and disease-resistant. We provide planting services by arborists who know and understand how trees grow. We also provide proper after-planting care instructions, information and follow up throughout your tree’s lifetime.

Get started on adding trees and shrubs to your yard by sharing your ideas and needs in our Plant Inquiry Form. A Hoppe certified arborist will get in touch with you.

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