There are hundreds of thousands of creeks, streams and rivers in the region. These tributaries send about 51 billion gallons of fresh water into the Chesapeake Bay each day, and offer vital habitat to diverse populations of plants, invertebrates, amphibians, fish and other critters.
Litter and debris, nutrient and sediment pollution, toxic contaminants and the installation of dams, culverts and other structures can affect the health of rivers and streams. Aquatic litter can smother grass beds and bottom-dwelling organisms. Nutrient pollution can fuel the growth of harmful algae blooms. Excess sediment can clog ports and channels. Pesticides, pharmaceuticals, metals and other toxic substances can harm the health of humans and wildlife. And dams and culverts can alter the flow of waterways.
Protecting and restoring rivers and streams is important for both the environment and the economy: rivers and streams provide people with much-needed public access points where they can fish, boat and swim, observe wildlife, and reconnect with the watershed. Many local watershed groups publish report cards—shown in the map above—that detail the health of the rivers and streams that flow into the Bay.
A recent survey of stewardship actions and attitudes in the watershed found that one-fifth of the region’s residents do not think the water near where they live is healthy and safe for boating, fishing or swimming. Fortunately, 70 percent of watershed residents want to do more to make their local creeks, rivers and lakes healthier. In the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, the Chesapeake Bay Program set a goal to improve stream health and function throughout the watershed.