On March 26, 2013, the U.S. EPA announced the release of the draft 2008-2009 National Rivers and Stream Assessment (draft dated 2/28/13), which the agency’s news release on the report calls “the first comprehensive survey looking at the health of thousands of stream and river miles across the country.” The report presents results of sampling by EPA, states, and tribes at over 2000 sites. Overall the report found that 55 percent of streams in the nation are “in poor condition for aquatic life.” Four findings highlighted in the news release are the following:
1) Nitrogen and phosphorus at excessive levels—27 percent of the nation’s rivers and streams have excessive levels of nitrogen, and 40 percent have high levels of phosphorus.
2) Streams and rivers at risk due to decreased vegetation cover and increased human disturbance–approximately 24 percent of the rivers and streams monitored were rated poor due to the loss of healthy vegetative cover.
3) Increased bacteria levels–high bacteria levels were found in nine percent of stream and river miles making those waters potentially unsafe for swimming and other recreation.
4) Increased mercury levels—more than 13,000 miles of rivers have fish with mercury levels that may be unsafe for human consumption.
The streams and rivers assessment is one of four national aquatic-resource assessments underway by EPA; the others cover lakes, coastal conditions, and wetlands. The EPA’s Web site for the surveys is http://www.epa.gov/aquaticsurveys.
Source: EPA Survey Finds More Than Half of the Nation’s River and Stream Miles in Poor Condition, U.S. EPA News Release, 3/26/13.