Waters

America’s waters are the lifeblood of our nation. Our rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes, springs, and estuaries are vital for wildlife on land, in the skies, and in our waters.

Clean, healthy waterways are also key to every part of our way of life, from drinking water and recreation to agriculture, fisheries, and manufacturing.

Defending the Clean Water Act

Our nation’s water quality has improved dramatically since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. Unfortunately, in 2023, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that effectively removes federal protections from more than half our nation’s wetlands and has resulted in the loss of protections for millions of miles of streams. This rollback presents the largest threat to America’s waters in over fifty years.

The National Wildlife Federation works with our affiliates and partners to defend the Clean Water Act in Congress, the courts, and other federal decision-making, to protect our waters and prevent them from being polluted or physically damaged by projects such as dams, pipelines, or mines. We are committed to fully restoring federal protections for all important surface waters including wetlands and streams.

Modernizing Federal Water Management

We advocate for smart federal water policies so the Army Corps of Engineers constructs and manages water projects that protect, instead of harm, people and wildlife.

Working with Congress

We engage in a wide range of federal legislation that influences the health of our waters. As we work to protect our waters and wildlife, we also strive to lift up partners from underrepresented communities across the country. All too often, policies and projects that harm our nation’s wildlife and waters also have disproportionate impacts on frontline communities. The National Wildlife Federation seeks to:

Restoring America's Great Waters

Across the United States, large aquatic ecosystems with particular value to fish and wildlife have been damaged or degraded by threats such as run-off pollution, poor river management decisions, dams blocking fish migration, and the destruction of wetlands. We are working to restore these waters, including the Everglades, Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River and its Delta, the Gulf of Mexico, the Snake River, and the Delaware River. Learn more about our water coalitions.

Advocating in the Courts

In recent years, we have brought or joined lawsuits to protect broad federal authority to protect streams and wetlands from pollution and destruction, to ensure that communities have a say in the thorough environmental review of impacts from federal projects, and to defend treasured waters like Bristol Bay in Alaska, where we went to court to stop a copper mine that could have destroyed the world’s most productive salmon fishery.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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Regional Centers and Affiliates