Looking beyond the hackneyed pun, the statement is as true as it ever was: we need to protect our waters in the United States. This includes all waters, particularly critical headwater streams, rivers, and wetlands – the very waters that our adorable otter friends rely on for their habitat and food.

A family of five curious River Otters in Lime Kiln State Park on Washington's San Juan Island. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Tyler Davis.
A family of five curious River Otters in Lime Kiln State Park on Washington’s San Juan Island. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Tyler Davis.

Countless years of riparian activity such as large-scale agricultural development, homebuilding, and industrial production has contributed to increased levels of pollution in our nation’s watersheds. These pollutants result in toxic algal bloomsdestroy critical habitat, and contaminate our drinking water supplies.

It’s ALL Connected

The Environmental Protection Agency recently convened an independent Science Review Board to draft a peer-reviewed report about the important role small streams and wetlands play in the health of downstream waters.

The report finds:

  • Streams, regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters. These streams supply most of the water in rivers, transport sediment and organic matter, provide habitat for many species, and take up or change nutrients that could otherwise impair downstream waters.
  • Wetlands and open-waters in floodplains of streams and rivers and in riparian areas are integrated with streams and rivers. Wetlands strongly influence downstream waters by affecting the flow of water, and trapping and reducing non-point source pollution.
  • Wetlands outside the floodplain (e.g. many prairie potholes, vernal pools, and playa lakes) provide numerous functions that can benefit downstream water quality and integrity. These functions include storage of floodwater; retention and transformation of nutrients, metals, and pesticides; and recharge of groundwater sources of river baseflow. The functions and effects of this diverse group of wetlands affect the condition of downstream waters if a surface or shallow subsurface water connection to the river network is present.

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This is an overview of watershed elements discussed in the connectivity report. It illustrates that water and materials can move into streams and rivers through overland flow and groundwater flows. This is located on pg. 1-2 of the report
EPA’s Stream and Wetland Connectivity Report confirms that it is absolutely critical to protect small intermittent streams, headwaters, and wetlands from harmful contaminants. These upstream waters are intrinsically connected to our larger water bodies – contaminants flowing in to upstream waters will certainly have harmful effects on the health of rivers and lakes downstream – the very waters we rely on for recreation and our nation’s drinking water supplies.

It’s Imperative To Clarify Protections For Our Waters

The science is in: It is imperative that the administration move quickly to clarify protections for all of nation’s treasured waters – the waters you expect to be drinkable, fishable, and swimmable.

Take Action ButtonShow your support today and help to ensure that sound science is used as the foundation of the laws that protect our waters!