Stream Wise

Why is stream health so important?

Why is stream health so important?

Healthy and resilient streams protect us against floods, provide good water quality for drinking, create endless recreation opportunities, and are home to diverse fish and wildlife. They are the lifeblood of our natural, economic, and cultural landscape. 

To be healthy, rivers and streams require wide buffers of native trees, shrubs, and ground cover with secure root systems in place to stabilize the streambanks, absorb water, and prevent soil erosion during flood events. Stream Wise awards properties with vegetated stream buffers that are 50 feet or wider from the streambank edge that allow a river to frequently and freely flow and meander into its surrounding floodplains and wetlands. This is important because streams and rivers carry vital nutrients and organic material that replenish and rejuvenate the soil for natural plant communities and human agriculture. 

Wide stream buffers help keep our region’s ecosystem in balance. When a river or stream does not have a wide enough buffer, rainfall during large storm and flooding events quickly washes into the river systems instead of being captured and infiltrated on the land to build healthy soil. As rainfall intensifies, rivers and streams gain momentum, erosive power, and head downstream with too much soil which contains nutrients, like phosphorus, as well as pollutants.  

Over 14,700 miles of rivers and streams deliver more than 2 trillion gallons of water to Lake Champlain each year. And often the water carried to the Lake from its watershed, especially during large storm and flooding events, contains more than enough nutrients and pollutants to create an ecosystem imbalance. For example, an excess of phosphorus in the Lake is the primary reason for toxic cyanobacteria (sometimes known as blue-green algae) blooms and other harmful impacts to water quality. 

Stream Wise is supported by the Lake Champlain Basin Program as a valuable, voluntary, and inclusive awareness campaign and assistance resource for local stream communities because we know it will take an all-in approach to reduce unnecessary streambank erosion flowing into Lake Champlain from the rivers and streams of its watershed.  

Learn about how to be an effective stream steward to boost your buffer to protect and restore the health of your stream! Sign up for a free evaluation today! Explore and follow us on social media @streamwisechamplain for more details.

Advisory Committee: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Adirondack Park Agency, Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program

2024 Stream Wise Assessors include staff from: Ausable River Association, Franklin County Natural Resource Conservation District, Franklin Watershed Committee, Friends of the Mad River, Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, Friends of the Winooski River Inc., Grand Isle Natural Resources Conservation District, Greensboro Association, Lake Champlain Committee, Lamoille County Conservation District, Missisquoi River Basin Association, Organisme de basin versant de la baie Missiquoi, and Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute.

Stream Wise is a project of the Lake Champlain Basin Program and NEIWPCC.