National assessment of streams and rivers highlights need for protections in the South

The latest survey of the nation's streams and rivers concludes that those in the South are faring worse than the rest of the country. (© Bill Lea)

The Environmental Protection Agency released its latest study on the state of rivers and streams in the U.S., showing that 46% of stream miles nationwide are in poor biological condition.

The National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA) is the result of surveys of 1.2 million miles of rivers and streams conducted in 2008-2009.

Waterways with high levels of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen and excessive sediment runoff are about twice as likely to have poor macroinvertebrate communities, such as crayfish, snails and worms. Rivers and streams with poor biological condition can lead to loss of fishing and other recreational activities.

SELC’s six states are designated as part of EPA’s Coastal Plains and Southern Appalachians ecoregions, which have the worst rankings. Urban development, agriculture, mining, and diverting and channeling waterways have impacted and altered many of the rivers and streams in the region.

“There is much more our states could and should be doing in order to better protect the health of our rivers and streams,” said SELC Senior Attorney Gil Rogers. “Safeguarding these important waterways is vital for downstream communities, as well as our prosperous fisheries and tourism industries.”

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