Clean Water

Rivers, Streams and Wetlands

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.
  • Headwater streams 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.
  • Headwater streams 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 educates the public about the value of wetlands, fights for strong protections at the Statehouse, comments on poorly planned developments, and – when necessary – initiates lawsuits.