Health of nation's water supply may be found at the head of the river

February 13, 2007

Recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court have focused national attention on what bodies of water fall under federal jurisdiction for protection under the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA includes many important water quality and pollution prevention programs, particularly for headwaters, bodies of water that often serve as the tributaries for rivers and streams. The latest issue of Journal of the American Water Resources Association focuses on this issue by enlisting some of the foremost experts on America's waterways to determine what role headwaters play in the overall status and safety of the nation's water supply by maintaining the physical, chemical and biological integrity of downstream waters.

"It is not often recognized that a large proportion of fresh water movement happens in ways we can't easily see, underground or via intermittent or ephemeral streams," says journal editor Kenneth Lanfear. "Through these often over-looked connections, compromised headwater streams can damage the integrity of downstream water supply, and impact the ability of downstream waters to perform ecological functions."

Lanfear hopes that this publication can assist policy makers in making wise, scientifically sound decisions regarding the protection of all bodies of water at the federal, state and local level. "For the CWA to be effective, the whole picture of water movement and interaction needs to be considered," says Lanfear. "Applying this expertly researched information to policy and management issues would be a step in the right direction."
This study is published in Journal of the American Water Resources Association. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this issue may contact

Kenneth Lanfear is the editor of Journal of the American Water Resources Association. He can be reached for questions at

The Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) is dedicated to publishing original papers characterized by their broad approach to water resources issues. JAWRA articles present ideas derived from multiple disciplines woven together to give insight into critical water issues. JAWRA is published on behalf of the American Water Resources Association. For more information, please visit

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