The Chattahoochee River, shown here as it flows through the East Palisades section in Atlanta, supplies most of the city’s drinking water. It begins in the Chattahoochee National Forest in north Georgia’s mountains. CHARLES SEABROOK

A major product of Georgia’s forests is water

Water, of course, is essential for life, and when we turn on the tap we expect clean, healthy water. But to ensure clean water, we also must protect the land.

Conservationist Michael Dombeck, who headed the U.S. Forest Service from 1997 to 2001, helped convince me years ago: “Water is perhaps the most important forest product,” he explained. “Forests generate most of the (drinking) water in this country.”

That includes Atlanta, where most of our drinking water originates in the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia’s mountains.

Forests do this, Dombeck noted, this way: “The complex array of trees, shrubs, ground covers and roots slows runoff from rain and snow, and water is purified as it percolates through the soil and into aquifers. By slowing runoff, forests also reduce floods and erosion, minimizing the sediment entering streams and rivers.”

Clean water, of course, is not the only free service from forests. Natural areas also help clean the air, provide homes for an amazing diversity of wildlife and provide recreation that helps rejuvenate the human spirit.

One item on Tuesday’s Election Day ballots is something supporters including Gov. Nathan Deal say is intended to help preserve clean water, clean air, green space and wildlife. The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment (Amendment 1 on the ballots) would dedicate as much as $20 million a year to that effort. The funds would come from existing sales tax collected by sporting goods stores.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The South Taurid Meteor shower reaches a peak of about 10 meteors per hour this weekend in the east. Best viewing time is from about midnight until dawn. The moon will be new on Wednesday. Mercury is low in the west just after sunset. Venus is very low in the east just before sunrise. Mars is in the southwest at dusk. Saturn is very low in the southwest around dusk.

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