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FYI: EPA Unveils First-Ever Assessment of U.S. Wadeable Streams

Subject: EPA Unveils First-Ever Assessment of U.S. Wadeable Streams


(Washington, D.C. - May 5, 2006) What's the state of the union's
streams? EPA set out to answer that question in a just-completed,
multiyear study of wadeable streams across the country.

The study, Wadeable Streams Assessment (WSA), is the first consistent
evaluation of the streams that feed rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.
Alaska and Hawaii were not included in the report but have pilot
projects underway. "Wadeable streams" are those which are shallow
enough to be adequately sampled without a boat. They are essential
natural resources that have been under-sampled in the past.

"This scientific report card on America's streams will help citizens
and governments measure the health of their watersheds, take actions to
prevent pollution, and monitor for progress," said Assistant
Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. "Small streams are
connected to the overall health of a community's ecology and economy
and this report underscores their importance and identifies priority
work ahead."

Conducted between 2000 and 2004, the study was based on sampling at
1,392 sites selected to represent the condition of all streams that
share similar ecological characteristics in various regions. It was a
collaborative effort that involved dozens of state environmental and
natural resource agencies, federal agencies, universities and other
organizations. More than 150 field biologists were trained to collect
environmental samples using a standardized method.

What Did They Find?

The survey found that stream conditions vary widely across the diverse
ecological regions of the country, and that streams in the West were in
the best condition. Humans, the researchers found, have a significant
impact on wadeable streams. A majority of streams showed evidence of
human influence along the streams, such as dams, pavement and pastures.

The WSA measured key chemical and physical indicators that reveal
stress, or degradation of streams. The most widespread stressors
observed are nitrogen, phosphorus, and streambed sediments, which
smother aquatic habitat and degrade conditions for fish. Nitrogen and
phosphorus are nutrients that can increase the growth of algae,
decrease levels of dissolved oxygen and cloud the water.

What's Next?

The WSA is part of a series of surveys to evaluate all of the nation's
waters. Coastal condition has already been evaluated. During the next
five years, EPA will sample the condition of lakes, large rivers, and
wetlands. Then the process will be repeated to provide ongoing
comparisons of the state of the waters and point to possible future

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