A stream is a complex living system where the physical characteristics of the stream bed and the valley it’s contained within—including its shape, elevation drop, and soil types—interact with dissolved nutrients and organic matter in the water to create an environment rich with life.
Too often, streams are treated as drainage channels, with no other purpose than to move storm runoff (and all its associated pollutants) downstream as efficiently as possible.
Understanding and respecting steams as dynamic ecosystems will go a long way towards protecting water quality and stream health. In fact, streams do a better job of protecting us and our property during flood events when they’re healthy.
Components of a Healthy Stream Include:
- Cool, clear, oxygen-rich water that is free of pollutants and excess algae.
- Gravel and cobble, without too much sand and silt, for aquatic insects and fish spawning.
- Presence of both slow pools to provide cover and refuge, and riffles (fast water running over shallow rocks) to support aquatic insects, fish spawning and feeding.
- Adequate amounts of water flowing in the stream during summer.
- Fallen logs, branches and other natural debris to provide habitat and cover for aquatic and riparian species.
- Abundant, native riparian (streamside) vegetation to stabilize banks and provide shade, food and shelter for wildlife.