Why Care for Small Streams?

Garden Canyon River, AZ | © Arizona Office of Tourism
Garden Canyon River, AZ | © Arizona Office of Tourism

Our Waters Are Connected

You may know them simply as a small creek running through the backyard, or the little stream that only appears when it rains. They may not consistently flow with water or even have a name, but headwater streams are where all of our nation’s iconic rivers begin.

While they may not get a lot of credit, a new graphic (below) from the Environmental Protection Agency demonstrates just how reliant many of us are on them for some or all of our drinking water. Across the country, approximately 117 million Americans rely on small headwater streams at least in part for their drinking water supply. This map shows the percentage of the population by county that gets at least some of their drinking water from these small streams.

Why care about small streams?

Small streams are where every river begins, from the Colorado to the Mississippi. Not only do they help provide drinking water to millions of Americans, they also help absorb and reduce the impacts of flooding, recharge groundwater supplies, and retain and process the nutrients that can cause water pollution.

Caring about small streams is critical right now as the Environmental Protection Agency takes steps to clarify protections for them under the Clean Water Act. Since 2006 and following two Supreme Court cases, protections for both small streams and wetlands were put into question. The Agency recently put forward a draft rule to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act for interagency review. While the draft rule isn’t available publicly yet, it will be based on the most recent science as put forward in a scientific report that will be reviewed by a panel of experts.

How can you help?

American Rivers strongly supports the Administration’s efforts to address this important clean water issue and we hope you’ll add your voice, supporting the EPA’s efforts by signing the petition at right.

One Response to “Why Care for Small Streams?”

Henri Bowman

There are so many issues that are important but our water is the first. Few people know where that water comes from when they turn on the faucet but I do. Please protect every bit of water we have. It all begins in that headwater trickle that becomes a stream that becomes a river that becomes your drinking water and mine. I also like to catch and release a trout now and then.
Henri Bowman
934 Trout Street
Staunton, VA 22902