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Clearcutting Forests Means Less Clean Water

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This picture, taken on March 15th, 2019, shows a maize field destroyed by floods in Chikwawa district, Southern Malawi.

Deforestation can reduce communities’ access to clean drinking water, according to a recent study conducted in Malawi.

A lot of prior research on how deforestation impacts water dynamics has shown that clearing away forest leads to surges in water runoff, increasing what scientists call “water yield.” The implication of those studies is often “that deforestation will not have a negative effect on water access to people,” Hisahiro Naito, an economist and associate professor at Japan’s University of Tsukuba, writes in an email. “We have challenged this view.”

Just because more water is available doesn’t mean it’s palatable or safe enough for humans to drink. Without the forest floor to sponge up water, runoff erodes the soil and picks up sediment that fouls up treatment systems, which are rare to begin with in many parts of Malawi.

Naito and his colleague, Annie Mwayi Mapulanga, believe that theirs is “the first paper that directly examines the access to clean drinking water and deforestation,” Naito writes. To begin, the pair gathered satellite data from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining showing deforestation in Malawi from 2000 to 2010. They then compared this data with information on household water supplies and whether they were safe or not from the country’s demographic health surveys in 2000 and 2010.

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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !