Watch CBS News

Report Finds California Has Fifth-Most Polluted Water In U.S.

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- A new report is painting a dire picture of California's waterways. In fact, it shows the state has some of the highest levels of water pollution in the country.

The Environmental Integrity Project, a non-profit, looked at rivers and streams in all 50 states and found California is the fifth-most polluted. We dug a little deeper into this and found that one of Sacramento's most popular places to cool off has high levels of bacteria.

"Basically, anything that you can picture -- oil from your car, grass clippings, runoff from agriculture -- mix into what we sometimes call this toxic cocktail of wastewater," said Delia Bense-Kang with the Surfrider Foundation.

A report from the non-profit finds nearly half of rivers and streams across the United States are too polluted to meet quality standards for drinking, swimming, and fishing. In California, it shows more than 37,000 miles of waterways are dirty, ranking the state's drinking water the worst in the country and third-worst when it comes to fishing.

"Wastewater can have lots of nitrogen and that can wreak havoc on coastal ecosystems," Bense-Kang said. "It can cause harmful algal blooms; those cause fish kills. And they can also damage wetlands."

The cause, according to the report, is agricultural runoff and drought.

Among the local trouble spots? The lower American River.

The red in these recent monitoring reports by the Central Valley Water Board shows above-average E. coli levels that can be harmful to swimmers and pets.

As for how to tackle this nationwide problem, the report recommends the Environmental Protection Agency update its water assessment regulations and designate more money for staff and other resources.

Researchers are quick to point out that all of this data still doesn't provide the full extent of the nation's water pollution problem because each state monitors waterways differently.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.