Based on an analysis, the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) says that states are effectively monitoring water quality in just 2 percent of rivers and streams nationwide. Even more troubling, it adds, 55 percent of those tested are not deemed safe for designated uses such as swimming, fishing, and drinking water sources, according to state reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“There is an alarming lack of timely information about water quality in this country,” said IWLA Executive Board Chair Jodi Arndt Labs. “Every morning, you can read about that day’s air quality in the local paper or on your smart phone. Yet information about the health of local streams is 5 to 10 years old. That’s a problem.”
IWLA also reports the following:
- Pollutants in these waters include a laundry list of bacteria, carcinogens, and nutrients.
- Testing sites are often randomly located and limited in number, and most information about water quality in streams is 5 to 10 years old.
- More than half of all states (26) received D or F grades for the overall effectiveness of the state’s stream monitoring efforts.
For the full report, go here.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 requires states to monitor the safety of all waterways, report water quality information publicly every two years, and address pollution problems. However, states vary widely in virtually every aspect of water quality monitoring, including standards used to assess water quality; where, when, and which waters are tested; the types of tests performed; and how states provide information to the public.
IWLA found that many states have weak water quality standards that can inflate the number of waters rated clean and healthy and most states don’t monitor water quality often enough to make accurate statewide safety claims.
“The solution to ensuring the public has accurate, timely, and local information about stream health isn’t a mystery,” said Scott Kovarovics, IWLA executive director. “Across the country today, League chapters and networks of citizen monitors are already doing great work. Volunteers could regularly monitor water quality in thousands more streams and provide timely results to their neighbors and state governments. The League is committed to achieving this goal by getting more citizens involved in stream monitoring nationwide.”
IWLA provides free tools, including training videos, data forms, equipment lists, and a new biological monitoring mobile app, to help volunteers get started with water quality monitoring. They're available here.