The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sampled around 2,000 rivers and streams in 2008-2009 and released a draft version of the National Rivers and Streams Assessment. What they found is pretty alarming: Only 21 percent of rivers and streams were deemed to be in “good” health, while 23 percent were rated “fair” and 55 percent got a “poor” grade.

Of the three major climatic regions (Eastern Highlands, Plains and Lowlands, and West) discussed in this report, the West is in the best biological condition, with 42% of river and stream length in good condition. In the Eastern Highlands, 17% of river and stream length is in good condition; in the Plains and Lowlands, 16% is rated in good condition.

Nutrient pollution is a major cause, with phosphorus and nitrogen running off from agricultural and urban sources. Land development can cause accelerated erosion and flooding (mostly through removing natural plant and tree cover).

Nancy Stoner, Office of Water Acting Assistant Administrator at the EPA, said:

The health of our Nation’s rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, and this new science shows that America’s streams and rivers are under significant pressure. We must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation’s streams and rivers as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities, and play a critical role in the economy.

Globally, 15 million children under the age of five die each year because of diseases caused by drinking water.

In the United States, people use over 1.8 billion disposable diapers, 220 million tires, and 30 billion foam cups per year. This gives you a snapshot of why we produce so much garbage from year to year.

Over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by pollution every year. This is in addition to the staggering, likely uncountable amount of fish killed by water pollution.

Cadmium is a common pollutant which kills human fetal sex organ cells, is in almost everything we eat and drink.

Russia’s Lake Karachay, a nuclear waste dump zone, is the most polluted place on Earth. 5 minutes near it, unprotected, can kill you.

Approximately 46% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.

The Mississippi River brings about 1.65 million tons of pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year, making a dead zone the size of New Jersey.

The three most air-polluted cities in the U.S are, in order, Bakersfield, Fresno, and Riverside, all within California. China is the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, producing more than the U.S and Canada combined, emitting 171% more than it was in 2000.

Each person in the U.S produces about 4 lbs of garbage per day.

Polluted coastal water costs the global economy $12.8 billion a year in death and disease. The ancient Greek Acropolis is believed to have crumbled more in the last 40 years than it has in the previous 2,500 due to acid rain. FYI, Acid rain is caused by the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide interacting with water molecules in the atmosphere, meaning that, essentially, modern city life causes acid rain.