SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation

Water security and forest health are intrinsically linked, and responsible forest management is key to preserving the forest and water ecosystem functions.

SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation

Sustainable Development Goal

Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in and there is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. At the current time, more than 2 billion people are living with the risk of reduced access to freshwater resources and by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water.

Forests and SDG 6:

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

75% of the world’s accessible freshwater, be it for domestic, industrial or commercial use, comes from forests. FAO

Food security is dependent on water security. And water security is dependent on forests. Yet because of the complex nature of forests, the ecosystem services they provide – especially water-related services – are often misunderstood, undervalued, and therefore overlooked.

Forests and trees are integral to the water cycle: they regulate the flow of water in streams and rivers, contribute to the quantity and quality of groundwater, and contribute to cloud generation and precipitation.

They also act as natural purifiers, filtering water and reducing soil erosion and sedimentation - sedimentation degrades the quality of water for drinking, wildlife and the land surrounding streams of water bodies.

Related SDG target (abbreviated)

6.6 By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

In the U.S, some 180 million people rely on forested lands to capture and filter their drinking water. U.S. Forest Service

PEFC and SDG 6

PEFC contributes to water security, safeguarding and enhancing the ability of forests to provide fresh water. 

Water is considered an essential ecosystem service that forest provide. We therefore require that forests must be managed in such a manner that forests continue to purify water, and that special care is given to areas within forests that are especially relevant for the provision of fresh water.

This also concerns forest management operations. When new roads or bridges are being build, this must be done in a manner that avoids negative effects on the quantity and quality of water resources, preserving watercourses and rivers, and avoids soil polluting streams.

Selected PEFC criteria (abbreviated) and standards

8.5.1 The standard requires that protective functions of forests for society, such as their potential role in flood prevention, water purification, and other ecosystem services shall be maintained or enhanced.

8.5.2 The standard requires that areas that fulfil specific and recognised protective functions for society shall be mapped, and forest management plans and operations shall ensure the maintenance or enhancement of these functions.

8.5.3 The standard requires that special care shall be given to forestry operations in areas where operations might lead to excessive erosion of soil into watercourses. 

8.5.5 The standard requires that construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure shall be carried out in a manner that avoids the introduction of soil into watercourses and preserves the natural level and function of water courses and river beds.

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