Number of State's Known Polluted Waterways Increases 170%

The number of rivers, streams and lakes in California showing overall toxicity increased 170% from 2006 to 2010, according to a list submitted by the state to the U.S. EPA today.

The Clean Water Act requires states to monitor and asses their waterways and report impaired waters to EPA for review. The 2010 list is based on more comprehensive monitoring and new assessment tools that allow the state to evaluate larger quantities of data.

Of California’s 3 million acres of lakes, bays, wetlands and estuaries, 1.6 million acres are not meeting water quality goals, and 1.4 million acres still need a pollution clean-up plan (or Total Maximum Daily Load).

Of the 215,000 miles of shoreline, streams and rivers, 30,000 miles are not meeting water quality goals, and 20,000 miles still need a TMDL. The most common contaminants in these waterways are pesticides and bacteria, followed by metals and nutrients. 

“Clean water is vital to California's pubic health, economy, recreation and wildlife,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, in a statement. “California has done an excellent job of increasing the amount of water monitored. Unfortunately, much of the new data points in the wrong direction. This list of impaired waters is a wake-up call to continue the critical local and statewide work to needed to heal California's damaged waters. “

View EPA’s full press release, including other important trends found in the data, and EPA’s supporting documents.