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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. “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.

  5. 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.

  6. Gene H:

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

  7. “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…

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

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