A watershed is the land area that drains to a common waterway. Rivers, lakes, estuaries, wetlands, streams, and oceans are catch basins for the land adjacent to them. Ground water aquifers are replenished based on water flowing down through the land area above them.
Large aquatic ecosystems (LAEs) comprise multiple small watersheds and water resources within a large geographic area. The Large Aquatic Ecosystems Council was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 to focus on protecting and restoring the health of critical aquatic ecosystems. Currently, there are 10 LAEs in this program.
Water pollution, surface runoff, contaminated sediment, discharges of chemicals, and air emissions can affect the quality of the land, water, and living resources within an aquatic ecosystem. Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals can be especially problematic in aquatic ecosystems because pollutants can accumulate in sediments and may bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms and the tissues of fish and other wildlife within the food chain to concentrations many times higher than in the water or air, which ultimately may cause environmental health problems for humans and wildlife.
This page was published in March 2019 and uses the 2017 TRI National Analysis dataset made public in TRI Explorer in October 2018.