Clean Water

Rivers, Streams and Wetlands

Ohio’s rivers, streams, and wetlands are among our most valuable natural resources. They provide clean drinking water and special places for our families to enjoy.

They also provide habitat for wildlife necessary to support Ohio’s $1.9 billion fishing and hunting industry. But these critically important resources can’t speak up for themselves.

That is why the Ohio Environmental Council works to ensure that these natural treasures receive the protection they need.


What could be better than drifting in a canoe down one of Ohio’s Scenic Rivers on a warm summer day? Or a morning spent relaxing on the water, punctuated by duels with a healthy steelhead trout?

Or maybe you prefer swimming, bird watching, or a walk by the water. Whatever your pleasure, Ohio’s rivers are some of the best spots in our state to just relax and enjoy life.

On behalf of our thousands of members across the state, the OEC goes to bat for our rivers every day at the Statehouse, before regulatory agencies, and in courts of law.


Primary headwater streams are the small streams that receive rainwater and snowmelt runoff from a drainage area smaller than one square mile. Although these streams are small, they are the foundation of good water quality and provide benefits to the surrounding area and to downstream waters.

For example:

  • Healthy headwater streams filter out pollutants, including the nutrients that cause harmful algal blooms in our lakes.
  • Headwaters are important habitat for numerous aquatic species in Ohio. Many amphibians depend on these small streams for at least part of their life cycle. Other species that live downstream come up into the headwaters to find important sources of food or shelter.
  • Headwaters provide energy for downstream water, which enhances the growth and productivity of larger organisms such as insects and fish.

Unfortunately, 46% of Ohio’s small streams are failing the aquatic life goals set by the Clean Water Act. That is why we need to do much more to protect these cornerstones of our surface water ecosystems. OEC is working with regulators and legislators to make this protection a reality.


Wetlands are some of the most biologically productive lands in Ohio. These unique ecosystems provide habitat for hundreds of species such as fairy shrimp, various frogs and salamanders, turtles, bald eagles, and more!

They also filter pollutants out of water and reduce flooding by holding in excess rainwater like a sponge, releasing it slowly over time.

While most of Ohio used to be covered with wetlands, we have lost over 90% of our natural wetlands. And those that remain are under constant threat from development, pollution, and other stressors.

OEC’s wetland program focuses on educating the public on vernal pools, fighting for strong protections at the Statehouse, commenting on poorly planned developments, and – when necessary – initiating lawsuits.