Thinning Forests Could Bring More Water to Valley

Thinning Forests Could Bring More Water to Valley

The recent rain and snow is good news, but some precious water might not make its way down to the Valley.  That's according to a theory by a local professor who claims overgrown forests could be sucking up water.
 
UC Merced hydrology professor Roger Bales says, "There's more water being used by the trees than we thought before doing the research."

Professor Bales says a solution to the ongoing water crisis may lie in our forests.

"It makes sense to take another look at how dense the forests are and how much water they're using."

Bales, who's also a member of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, says fire suppression policies have made forests more dense than ever before, and the overgrowth is sucking up rain and snow.

"Some of it may not hit the ground.  You may end up with 20 or 30 percent being held up in the canopy."

In some cases, every ounce of precipitation fades into the atmosphere.  In response, Bales has come up with a hypothesis, suggesting the water run-off could increase by 9% if forests are properly thinned.

Bales says, "We would really like to see a demonstration project where more thinning is done to take the forest back to a restoration condition."

The U.S. Forest Service already thins trees to prevent large wildfires, but Bales is asking for a more extensive thinning on a few hundred acres, where he hopes his hypothesis will prove true.

If the theory does pan out, Bales says it would likely take another two years for the U.S. Forest Service to begin the restoration thinning.

Bales says the research will cost $450,000 to $500,000.

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