Wetlands and Streams
- Wetlands Homepage
- Water Homepage
- Wetlands Definitions
- Compensatory Mitigation
- State, Tribal and Local Initiatives
- Monitoring and Assessment
- Laws, Regulations, Guidance, and Scientific Documents
- Landowner Assistance and Stewardship
- Wetlands and Watersheds
- River Corridor and Wetland Restoration
- Wetlands Education
- Water Quality and 401 Certification
- Ecological Research
- Water Strategic Plan and Guidance
- Urban Waters Federal Partnership
Learn How to Help
Protect Our Waters
What is a Watershed?
We all live in a watershed. A watershed is an area of land where all of the water that is on it or under it drains to a common waterway – a stream, lake, estuary, wetland, aquifer, or even the ocean. Watersheds are an important part of our ecosystem and our individual actions can directly affect the quality of the waters in our watersheds. Learn more about watersheds
Learn About Water Quality
in Kansas City Area
- Share real-time data
- Connect with partners
- Help protect water bodies
- Learn about EPA's role
Go to www.kcwaters.org
Midwest Wetlands and Streams
Maintaining the integrity of Midwest wetlands and streams becomes increasingly important as we experience more pronounced effects from flooding, climate change, and habitat loss. We are fortunate in the Midwest to have a vast network of wetlands and streams that support the mighty Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. EPA Region 7 has a great diversity of lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and wetlands: from small prairie potholes in Iowa to swamps in the Missouri Bootheel; from salt lakes to Lake of the Ozarks; and from small seasonal streams to the largest river in the nation.
What is a Wetland?
Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.
Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils. Learn more about wetlands
Fun Fact: A one-acre wetland one foot deep can hold 1 million gallons of water!
Our regional wetlands and streams provide these significant benefits to local communities:
- Wetland plants filter pollutants and increase water quality by a process called "uptake."
- Wetlands contain stream and river overflows and help prevent flooding.
- Wetlands are important for a state's economy. They bring tourists who hunt, fish, photograph wildlife, and enjoy bird watching and other outdoor activities.
- Wetlands provide habitat for birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians that make up an important part of the ecosystem. (See wildlife photos below.)
What is a Stream?
A stream is a water body that, in a normal year, has water flowing or standing above ground to the extent that evidence of an ordinary high-water mark is established.
Streams are important as conduits in the water cycle, instruments in ground water recharge, and corridors for fish and wildlife migration. The biological habitat in the immediate vicinity of a stream is called a riparian zone. Streams play an important role in connecting fragmented habitats and, therefore, in conserving biodiversity.
Streams work together with other parts of the landscape to keep a watershed healthy. Healthy streams serve as filters, helping to reduce the amount of pollutants in a watershed.
They provide water for:
- Drinking, bathing and other domestic use
- Agricultural use, such as crop and livestock irrigation
- Recreation habitat for sport and game fish, watersports, bird watching, photography and other community activities
- Important habitat for birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians to nest, rest, feed and support the ecosystem
Streams also provide an important benefit by providing green spaces, trails, parks and other desirable amenities that are important to communities and attract people to those communities. Learn more about streams
The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters. Toward achievement of this goal, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands, through a permitting program administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, EPA and USACE share responsibility for regulating discharges to wetlands. USACE administers the day-to-day wetland permit program.
More information about the Section 404 Regulatory Program and the roles and responsibilities of federal agencies, including EPA, is available in the Wetland Regulatory Authority fact sheet (PDF) (2 pp., 361K, About PDF).
What We Do: EPA Region 7 develops and interprets wetlands policy, guidance and criteria for evaluating permit applications. We also review and comment on individual permit applications, and have the authority to elevate or deny applications for fill material.
What We Don’t Do: EPA Region 7 does not make final permitting decisions or issue Section 404 permits for work that involves filling a stream or wetland. That is the responsibility of USACE.
Do I need a Permit? If you’re not sure whether your project will require a permit from USACE, visit their Kansas City District Regulatory Branch website.