Report: Fifty-Five Percent Of U.S. Rivers Unfit For Aquatic Life

220px-Kalamazoo_RiverWhile we have been recently discussing the environmental meltdown in China, including unimaginable river pollution, it is important to keep in mind our own environmental problems. A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency captures how bad the situation is for our surface water. Fifty-five percent of U.S. river and stream lengths were found to be in poor condition for aquatic life due to fertilizers and other runoff.

The EPA has found harmful levels of phosphorus and nitrogen as well as runoff from urban areas that have continued to degrade our 1.2 million miles of streams and rivers. With candidates like Romney calling for reduced environmental controls, such studies show the cost of such short-sighted policies. Only 21 percent of our river and stream resources were found to be in good condition — a six percent drop from 2004.

In addition to this degradation, we continue to loose underground drinking water at an alarming rate. The EPA report puts the lie to arguments that our regulations are trying to achieve some utopian environmental world. We are losing ground or, in this case, water due to our lack of commitment to cleaning the environment for this and future generations.

Source: NBC

43 thoughts on “Report: Fifty-Five Percent Of U.S. Rivers Unfit For Aquatic Life

  1. That is an amazing figure. Add that to the global climate change that we are still pretty much ignoring and you have real trouble for our country and our planet.

  2. LOL@David’s comment. Our society continues to build…build…build…I wonder what is the % world wide of rivers and streams being unfit for aquatic life?

  3. Too many people seem to act as if we have somewhere else to move to if it becomes inhospitable. Last time I checked, the Earth is all we got.

  4. If you’re interested in helping improve the health of our creeks, streams, and rivers, contact your state conservation department and ask if they have a Streamkeeper program.

  5. Our government officials are completely owned by corporations whose short term commitment to profits is the only thing that matters. As a result, long term goals of maintains clean water and air don’t matter to them. After all corporations don’t drink water or breath air. They could however develope ways to sell us clean air and water and wouldn’t that be just ducky, although there won’t be any ducks.

  6. “Only 21 percent of our river and stream resources were found to be in good condition — a six percent drop from 2004.”

    A staggering figure. We’re on a long, slow slide…down, down, down…

  7. Gene H:

    now I agree with that, we ought to be cleaning up our oceans, much more important than CO2 in the atmosphere.

  8. They are both important, Bron, because they are interrelated systems. What goes in the water gets into the air, what goes into the air gets into the water. It is the nature of the hydrological cycle. They are not discrete systems, but conjoined.

  9. “how does CO2 get in the water and what happens to it once there?”

    By direct osmosis and precipitation and what happens to it there is some is sequestered by various mechanisms, but more importantly, when that sequestration process is overloaded by excess CO2, it causes the water to become acidified. While some carbon is sequestered in calcium carbonate and is healthy for the oceans, disrupting the pH balance by over saturating the water with CO2 has devastating effects on both biology (it is shown to suppress immune responses in a variety of sea creatures) and chemistry, acidification changes the water’s ability to contain CO2 in calcium carbonate because there is an excess of ion in the water that serve to break down calcium carbonate.

    But if you want to play the game of many questions?

    How do clouds form? What effect does increased air temperature have upon both cloud formation and water surface temperatures? What happens to acidified water once it is transforms into water vapor? What acidifies water? What is a feedback loop? What is the carbon cycle?

    You really don’t want to play this game on this matter, Bron.

    I’ve got science on my side.

  10. Bron,

    “how does CO2 get in the water and what happens to it once there?”

    Carbonic acid is formed in every raindrop as it travels through the atmosphere.

    CO2 + H2O = H2CO3

  11. Fracking requires millions of gallons of water that has various nasty chemicals added to it. This water is frequently leaks into the ground water. Cheney exempted the gas industry from the Clean Water Act and EPA oversight, allowing them to poison the water without consequences.

  12. Bron,

    Sorry, I didn’t address the second half of your question. I really didn’t feel like digging out some of my old textbooks, but it was actually kind of fun.

    “. . . what happens to it once there?”

    “One way that carbon dioxide makes its way back to the hydrosphere and then to the solid earth is by first combining with water to form carbonic acid (H@CO3), which then attacks the rocks that comprise the lithosphere. One product of this chemical weathering of solid rock is the soluble bicarbonate ion (2HCO3-), which is carried by groundwater and streams to the ocean. Here water-dwelling organisms extract this dissolved material to produce hard parts of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). When these organisms die, these skeletal remains settle to the ocean floor as biochemical sediment and become sedimentary rock.”

    In short, limestone is formed after much time. However, that’s only one part of the picture:

    “In water, carbonic acid ionizes to form hydrogen ions (H+) and bicarbonate ions (HCO3-). The hydrogen ions attack the crystalline network . . . [of the very organisms mentioned above].”

    Free hydrogen ions in solution are acids, Bron.

    Source: Edward J. Tarbuck, Frederick K. Lutgens. Earth: And Introduction To Physical Geology. Eighth Ed. Prarson Prentice Hall, New Jersey. 2005. 190-221.

  13. gbk,

    Good answer. It’s amazing how many people don’t understand that the lithosphere, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere are very interactive.

  14. Gene,

    “Good answer. It’s amazing how many people don’t understand that the lithosphere, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere are very interactive.”

    Yeah, btw, it’s called Earth for short. :)

  15. gbk:

    thanks for the info. It is fascinating how everything is interconnected in some way.

    I recently saw a PBS show on earth’s climate where they used sattellite imagery to “see” the various systems by different methods.

    One of the more interesting observations was that a dry lake bed in Africa fertilizes the Amazon Rain Forest by the dust blown from this lake across the Atlantic.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727674.900-ancient-african-lake-fertilises-the-amazon.html

    WINDBLOWN dust from a dried-out African lake that was once the size of California is nourishing rainforests in the Amazon and algae in the Atlantic.

    Previous modelling studies estimated that the Bodélé depression in Chad, which formed when the largest lake in Africa dried out about 1000 years ago, is responsible for about 56 per cent of the dust from Africa reaching the Amazon, amounting to millions of tonnes per year.

  16. Bron,

    You’re welcome.

    “It is fascinating how everything is interconnected in some way.”

    It truly is. I’m currently doing remote sensing work for the National Park Service. I’m using historic Landsat data along with more recent satellite data to categorize vegetation type over time at one specific park with a reference base of geologic formation and soil type obtained from the USGS.

    After this is done the plan is to integrate historical weather data and produce interactive maps that show the effect of weather on broad vegetative patterns along with impacts on soil (essentially, the erosion rate).

  17. “Good answer. It’s amazing how many people don’t understand that the lithosphere, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere are very interactive.”

    Gene,

    You left out biosphere.

    You should check out Dorian Sagan’s Into the Cool which describes life in terms of thermodynamics. It’s well worth it.

  18. Gyges,

    Yes, I did, although life plays an integral part in the carbon cycle. I’ll check out Sagan’s book too. I have yet to be disappointed with one of your suggested readings. BTW, good to have you back. And completely OT, but have you tried the Game of Thrones inspired beer Iron Throne Blonde Ale? I’ve been keeping an eye out for it here, but no luck as of yet (although I did finally find a place with a decent beer selection). I hope all is well with you, the Mrs. and the tykes.

  19. Gene,

    There’s some old saw about living and service, but it’s been awhile, so I don’t quite remember it.

    This may destroy my Geek-cred, but I’ve never gotten into Game of Thrones. I’ve heard about the beer, but haven’t seen a bottle.

    It’s good to be back, I think the extended break did me some good. Things are about the same as always (although I did pick up a nice electric, and am looking for more excuses to play it). We’re all o.k. The World’s Happiest Toddler is now the World’s Happiest Kid, and the baby is now The World’s Fiercest Toddler.

  20. gbk:

    that sounds very interesting and makes sense. Where I live we have a shallow depth to rock, no more than 5-10′, the rock is a very hard diabase [is that the right term? A fine grained granite] which decomposes into a very plastic clay. Which means, at least from an engineering perspective, they shrink and swell based on water content. I would assume due to particle size, which is quite small.

    Anyway, we only have 3 main types of trees, white oak, red oak and hickory. There are a few pines, the big tall ones with only a small canopy at the tip top, a smattering of red bud and dogwood and an occasional maple. The majority of the forest around our house is composed of the 3 main types. I always wondered if the soil had anything to do with it, I cant say I thought about the parent material of the soil, until you mentioned your study, other than the shallow depth to rock.

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  22. Bron,

    Diabase is also referred to as dolerite, which is different from granite, though in common usage the words overlap. Both dolerite and granite are of igneous origin as opposed to sedimentary or metamorphic.

    The difference is mineral and lattice composition. Granite is a felsic rock where the mineral constituents are quartz, feldspar, and mica. Dolerite is a mafic rock more akin to basalt with the primary minerals being magnesium and iron. They are both dense.

    No matter the composition of your “bedrock” the soil more likely reflects erosional patterns over time, typically wind and water, though over very long periods of time chemical erosion does have an influence.

  23. Bron,

    Sorry, in my last post: “though over very long periods of time chemical erosion does have an influence.”

    should be:

    “though over very long periods of time chemical and mechanical weathering does have an influence.”

  24. Gyges

    spent the last couple of hours listening to the rev.and his band. amazing what talented people can do.

  25. Gyges,

    What pete said. Good tunage. And I’m a little envious. I could never get the hang of playing slide. :D

  26. it pisses me off to no end that i cannot trust the rivers in my native Maryland. I like to eat the fish i catch.

  27. Gyges, Thanks for the music, they have been playing on YouTube on another tab for awhile. I had to watch “Clap Your Hands” though, it was practically a flashback. Good stuff.

  28. All,

    Yeah, I discovered them at the library, with an album name like “The Whole Fam Damnily” how could resist? That was before I saw the titles, “Your Cousins on Cops,” “D.T.s or the Devil,” “Wal-mart Killed the Country Store.” Then you open it up, and the Big Damn band is him, a washboard player, and drummer.

    We caught them a few months ago, man was that a great show. Both he and Breezy (the washboard player and his wife) are just amazing players, that guy does things with a cigar box guitar that made you think there was another player on stage.

    Also, if you catch the lyrics his stuff has a real Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie vibe politically.

    Lotta,

    That’s a good tune and just kills live, but on the album (It’s on the latest one, “The Wages”) version the clapping is a bit… lacking.

  29. […] “[…] Fifty-five percent of U.S. river and stream lengths were found to be in poor condition for aquatic life due to fertilizers and other runoff.  The EPA has found harmful levels of phosphorus and nitrogen as well as runoff from urban areas that have continued to degrade our 1.2 million miles of streams and rivers. […]” http://jonathanturley.org/2013/03/27/report-fifty-five-percent-of-u-s-river-unfit-for-aquatic-life/#… […]

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