Thursday, April 4, 2013

55% of USA's Rivers & Streams Are in Poor Condition

Last month U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the results of the first comprehensive survey looking at the health of approximately 2,000 river and streams across U.S. done between 2008 and 2009. They found that only 21% of the rivers and streams were deemed to be in good health, 23% were in fair condition and remaining 55% were in poor condition.

According to the Office of Water Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner:

“The health of our Nation’s rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, and this new science shows that America’s streams and rivers are under significant pressure,”

“We must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation’s streams and rivers as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities, and play a critical role in the economy.”

Findings of the assessment include:

- Nitrogen and phosphorus, known as nutrient pollution, are at excessive levels.
27% of the nation’s rivers and streams have excessive levels of nitrogen, and 40% have high levels of phosphorus. High level of nitrogen and phosphorus will promote the growth of algae that harms water quality, food resources and habitats, and decreases the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive.

- Rivers and streams are at an increased risk due to decreased vegetation cover and increased human disturbance. These conditions can cause streams and rivers to be more vulnerable to flooding, erosion, and pollution. Vegetation along rivers and streams slows the flow of rainwater so it does not erode stream banks, removes pollutants carried by rainwater and helps maintain water temperatures that support healthy streams for aquatic life. Approximately 24% of the rivers and streams monitored were rated poor due to the loss of healthy vegetative cover.

- 9% of rivers have high level of bacteria making it unsafe for swimming and other recreations.

More than 13,000 miles of rivers have fish with mercury levels that may be unsafe for human consumption that may harm unborn baby or young child's nervous system.

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