In Support of Streamside Forests

Since 1982, Stroud Water Research Center employees and volunteers have helped plant hundreds of thousands of trees in Pennsylvania, beautifying the landscape while restoring and preserving water quality. Every tree we plant plays a vital role by providing a natural buffer zone between our land use and the stream it protects. Each tree helps prevent pollutants from entering our water supplies and provides lasting benefits of shade, beauty, and the natural habitat essential to a healthy ecosystem.

The Benefits of Streamside Forests

Streams Provide Drinking Water

Streams provide much more than places for recreation, they provide habitat for plants and animals — and the drinking water for many of us.

Trees Make Healthier Streams

Pennsylvania — or Penn’s Woods, as it was called — was almost completely forested for thousands of years. Today many streams no longer have trees growing along their banks. The absence of these streamside forests, combined with population growth, has resulted in declining stream health.

Plant Trees for Cleaner Water, Naturally

Unhealthy streams mean poor water quality, which increases the amount of money we must spend to treat our water supplies. A simple and cost-effective way to protect and improve the quality of our streams — and our drinking water — is to restore trees along the banks.

Streamside Forests = Healthier Wildlife Habitat

Forests and Water Quality

Trees Reduce Pollution

Streamside forests prevent sediments and other pollutants from reaching the stream. In addition, because forested streams are healthier, they are more able than deforested streams to process the pollution that does enter them. Healthy, forested streams are full of life, including microscopic organisms that are efficient at breaking down pollutants. Planting trees along streams supports a rich variety of life that can continue to clean our water for us, naturally.

Trees Reduce Flooding

Forests function like sponges. Roots from trees and shrubs break up the soil so that rainwater soaks into the ground, rather than running off the surface. This helps reduce flooding and replenish groundwater, another important source of drinking water.

Trees Decrease Drinking Water Costs

Poor water quality costs taxpayers money. Streamside forests reduce the cost of clean drinking water by reducing the need for chemicals to treat the water.

Streamside Forests = Cleaner, Cheaper Water

Become Part of the Solution: Plant Trees

Plant trees on your property even if you don’t have a stream. Tree roots break up the soil and allow rainwater to infiltrate into the ground, which helps replenish groundwater and reduce flooding.

Go Native

Plant native trees and shrubs. Native plants will thrive in our climate, are easier to care for, and they provide excellent food and habitat for wildlife.

Remember Wider is Better

Streamside forests provide a setback — or buffer — between the stream and the adjacent land use. A narrow streamside forest can provide some benefits, such as shade, but wider buffers are necessary to keep streams healthy. Research findings support a 100 foot minimum on both sides of the stream.

Six Reasons to Plant Trees

  1. Improve water quality by reducing pollution
  2. Lower drinking water treatment costs
  3. Replenish groundwater supplies
  4. Reduce flooding
  5. Provide habitat for wildlife
  6. Increase property values

Help Us Spread the Word

Download, print, and share the PDF version of this web page. Funding for the development of this material was provided by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.


More information including general background, watershed restoration guides and tools, and research publications can be found on the streamside forest resources page.