Ample Water


Ample Water

Rivers, lakes, and estuaries cover less than three percent of the Earth’s land surface, yet their importance to life is immeasurable. Without the right quantity of water flowing through these systems in the right pattern during specific times of the year, their ecological health is damaged, and they cease to function properly. Think of a river’s flow as its heartbeat.

Although much of the water that is withdrawn is returned after use, some is consumed and never returns to the river or other water source. When consumption significantly exceeds supply, watersheds become stressed. In the United States, nearly one in ten watersheds is stressed, and west of the Mississippi the ratio increases to one in three.*

How much can you alter the heartbeat of a river before it is in trouble? And how can you tell if your river is in trouble? Start by defining how much water is moving into and out of your system and whether withdrawals are balanced with deposits across seasons, months, and even days or hours. Next, consider whether imbalances are harming ecosystem function or the needs of particular species. Have you defined the flow characteristics (magnitude, frequency, duration, timing, and rate of change) necessary to sustain ecological health? Do you know which water law applies to your state? Are groundwater and surface flows being managed in an integrated manner? Having numeric water quantity goals (e.g., cubic feet per second of water during specific periods of the year) can help you better advocate for your river. Check out the links below to learn more to continue your discovery.

The best practices available throughout this website provide a set of proven approaches for keeping water in our rivers and restoring flow patterns. The impact stories offer examples from around the country where people are making a difference for their rivers. Explore what approaches might be appropriate, or are already being deployed, for the waters you care about most. You can also learn what River Network is doing to deliver results.

*Averyt, Kristen, et al. “Sectoral Contributions to Surface Water Stress in the Coterminous United States.” Environmental Research Letters 8:3 (2013). IOP Science. Web. 17 Sept 2013.

Catalyzing Policy Change

Policies and regulations that support ample water in our rivers for ecological function, fish and other water dependent species, and recreation are also needed in our journey towards healthy rivers and thriving communities.  

Dry, cracked land.

Providing Science Support

River Network provides support to groups on the ground seeking to bring the power of science into their efforts to advocate for healthy rivers.  

People river rafting.

Networking & Learning

Facilitating communities of practice, learning networks, and coalitions for greater impact has been part of River Network’s DNA since our inception.  

Pine Meadow Ranch Dam Removal

Photo credit (c) Richard Scott Nelson Pine Meadow Ranch is a 200-acre farm located along Whychus Creek immediately upstream from the City of Sisters, Oregon with surface water rights dating back to the late 1800s. The irrigation water for the ranch was previously being diverted from a dam that blocked migratory fish access to 13... Read More

Water Efficiency Education in Alabama

The Cahaba River provides half of the raw water for Birmingham, Alabama’s main drinking water utility, and summer withdrawals deplete its flow. The metro area currently has enough water supply during normal rainfall periods, but the region has been hit with droughts that require rationing. The Birmingham Water Board plans to add water supply to… Read More

South Lagoon Outfall

The Clean Water Act in Play in Mississippi

For many years, there had been significant complaints about Hattiesburg, Mississippi's two sewage lagoons discharging sewage into the already impaired Bowie and Leaf Rivers without regard to public health or the law. In March of 2010, a particularly foul odor had begun permeating the city, affecting businesses and the quality of life for thousands of... Read More

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