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Water: Rivers & Streams

Rivers & Streams

photo of a stream running thgouh a wooded area

There are over 3.5 million miles of rivers and streams in the U.S., covering an enormous and diverse landscape.

Rivers supply our drinking water; irrigate our crops; power our cities with hydroelectricity; support fish and other aquatic species; and provide countless recreational and commercial opportunities.

Small streams (such as headwater streams) and their associated wetlands are equally important.  These streams, including streams and wetlands that do not have water year round, play a key role in providing critical habitat, food and shelter for waterfowl, fish, and other aquatic species. They also mitigate damage from floods, provide sources of drinking water, filter pollutants, and support economically important local and downstream recreational and commercial uses.

Not surprisingly, the condition of the nation’s rivers, streams, and wetlands varies widely. Cities and town, farmlands, mines, factories, sewage treatment facilities, dams, and many human activities on the land have significant impacts on the quality of our waters. Understanding the condition of rivers, streams, and wetlands is critical if we are to develop effective plans to maintain, manage, and restore them.

National Aquatic Resource Surveys – Statistically-based surveys of the condition of the Nation's waters

Water Quality Conditions Reported by the States (ATTAINS database) – Search for stream quality information nationally, by state, by watershed, or by waterbody

National Water Quality Inventory Reports (under Section 305b of the Clean Water Act) – National summary reports on the quality of rivers and streams and other waters

Guidance on Assessing River and Stream Condition

Monitoring and Assessing Water Quality

EPA's Healthy Watersheds Initiative - Protecting our cleanest waters

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