American rivers connect us all - 65% of our drinking water comes from rivers and streams

The Clean Water Act turns 42 years old in 2014. Four decades ago, it taught us that our waterways are more than a convenient place to dispose of our garbage or dump unwanted detritus. Today, it is instructing us that waterways managed as part of larger natural systems deliver more benefits to more Americans.Take the issue of stormwater in the city of Pittsburgh. Like in most cities, rainwater falls on our paved surfaces, picks up dirt, chemicals, and raw sewage, and carries it into our waterways. Did you know stormwater runoff is now the largest source of water pollution in many parts of our country and a leading cause of swimming or water activity closures? Water managers know much more than we give them credit for (an understatement to be sure); and they're realizing that if we design and manage our communities to act more like natural systems, we can capture rain where it falls. 

  • A 1-inch rainstorm falling on a 1-acre meadow, for instance, would typically produce enough runoff to fill 28 bathtubs. 
  • The same storm falling on a 1-acre paved parking lot would produce 448 bathtubs of runoff—approximately 16 times as much.

What happens to our upstream waters, affects our downstream waters. And what happens to our hills, fields, or wetlands affects nearby streams and so on. The waters of our rivers and streams are continuously moving; and our surface water sustains us all (an understatement to be sure). In fact, sixty-five percent of our drinking water comes from rivers and streams. 

Surface water finds its way to streams to rivers to lakes, seeking the core of the Ohio River Basin where the confluence of these waters pauses momentarily before rolling into an ocean. Our waters mark the passage of our history and time, mirror our progress and way of life, and flow on toward eternity with or without us. Along the water’s way, we all lean upon our waters heavily; and we compete for it aggressively via the demands of agriculture, energy, industry, municipal users, and ourselves… those of us who brewed a pot of coffee this morning, showered recently, or had a drink to quench a thirst. We expect water to be always available and easily accessible… and we all dip into the flow of water to power our electric lives; cool, wash and rinse our industries and cities, feed our fields and livestock, and flush our domestic homes and commercial buildings.

As precious as air, as productive as soil, as old as stone… the waters of our country are a treasure and a resource without which we simply cannot live. We often take our water for granted or over use it at our peril; we must protect it for our future. Someone must stand and assist the vigil over these waters, someone must assess, test, and monitor, and someone must help protect us… so, let it RAIN.

  • RAIN is a regional source water protection (SWP) program dedicated to protecting shared drinking water resources used by community water systems.
  • RAIN's mission is to serve the public by creating an Early Warning System (EWS) in the Ohio River Basin to address public health issues, watershed protection and environmental accountability.
  • To learn about RAIN’s river water quality monitoring sites ►Click Here to view RAIN's Interactive Map.
  • To learn more RAIN and what we do, check out our video ► "What Is RAIN?"

RAIN monitors our rivers; collecting data, assessing conditions, informing consumers, and collecting and distributing the data we need to know: how much, how soon, how fast, how strong, how pure, how dilute, how dense, how polluted, and how safe.

We drink the water, so we should know what is in it. We use the water, so we should understand and know its condition. We rely on the water, so we should know that it will be there in the future. Ultimately, safe water means healthy kids and brighter futures for all of us.