The state of river restoration in the US

ATHENS, GA. More than a third of U.S. rivers are in failing health due to pollution and other factors, according to the EPA. In Georgia, segments of some 600 streams fail to meet Clean Water Act standards. So from big rivers like the Colorado to small streams like Georgia's Tanyard Branch, public and private groups are working to restore the health of U.S. waterways.

But what works best? Which practices can be tailored to certain regions? What does it cost? The need for healthy rivers, clean drinking water, vigorous fisheries and outdoor recreation demands research-based answers to these questions.

Top river-systems experts, including two UGA ecologists, report on the state of efforts to restore U.S. streams and rivers in today's issue of the journal Science. About three years ago, researchers from eight universities and river conservation groups formed a partnership to improve the "science and practice of river restoration." The idea was to rigorously evaluate current practices and use research to guide future restoration efforts.

The group began by compiling the first comprehensive database on nationwide river restoration projects. Judy Meyer, UGA Distinguished Research Professor of Ecology, and Elizabeth Sudduth, a master's degree graduate from the UGA Institute of Ecology now at Duke University, led the effort to collect and analyze data for the Southeast.

"This database will help scientists, practitioners and policy makers think more holistically about when restoration needs to happen and help set priorities," Meyer said.

Today's article presents the group's first analysis of the more than 37,000 current river restoration projects included in the National River Restoration Science Synthesis database.

The authors identified 13 restoration project types and their average costs based on goals, such as recreation, curbing erosion of river banks, dam removal, habitat improvement, storm water management and water qua

Contact: Kathleen Cason
University of Georgia

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