WASHINGTON — Today (March 26), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the results of the first comprehensive survey looking at the health of thousands of stream and river miles across the country, finding that more than half – 55 percent – are in poor condition for aquatic life.
“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,” said Office of Water Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner. “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.”
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Rivers and streams in the United States are releasing substantially more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previously thought. These findings could change the way scientists model the movement of carbon between land, water, and the atmosphere. The findings were recently published in a Nature Geoscience article entitled “Significant efflux of carbon dioxide from streams and rivers in the United States” by David Butman and Professor Peter Raymond of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, as part of David’s Ph.D. thesis. Funding for the study was from NASA, NSF, and the USGS. The article can be found at http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo1294.html. Butman and Raymond found that a significant amount of carbon accumulated by plant growth on land is decomposed, discharged into streams and rivers, and outgassed as carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. It is estimated that streams and rivers release almost 100 million metric tons of carbon each year. This release is equal to a car burning 40 billion gallons of gasoline, enough to drive back and forth to the moon 3.4 million times. Water chemistry data from more than 4,000 rivers and streams throughout the United States were incorporated with detailed geospatial data to model the flux of carbon dioxide from water. READ MORE »