U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in Social-Ecological Resilience and Law, ed. Ahjond S. Garmestani and Craig R. Allen (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014).


U.S. government work.


The U.S. EPA reports that almost half of the nation's rivers and twothirds of its lakes are use-impaired due to poor water quality (U.S. EPA 1998, 2002, 2010; Houck 2002). The Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission identified both poor water quality and unhealthy aquatic systems among the water challenges facing the West (Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission 1998). The water quality impairment is caused both by chemical pollution and physical alteration of streams. Nutrients and excess sediment impair water quality in 30 percent of the nation's streams (U.S. EPA 2011). In the Great Basin nearly two-thirds of the native fish are either listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or considered of concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Water development is considered second only to the introduction of nonnative fish in causing these problems (Doremus 2001).