Water Quality

Making Nebraska’s Rivers Fishable and Swimmable Again


It may be the best kept secret in Nebraska: Nearly every major river in Nebraska is polluted. Pesticides, nutrients, bacteria, sediment, PCBs, Mercury – the pollutants are many, and they are widespread enough to impact every major river in our state and most of our state’s lakes and reservoirs.

The sources of the pollution are varied. Pesticides, nitrogen and phosphorus run off from farm fields. Sediment runs off from farm fields and from construction sites. Different kinds of bacteria can come from livestock operations, from outdated municipal wastewater treatment systems, and from residential septic systems. PCBs are remnants of electric transformers, and Mercury comes in part from the burning of coal.

Nebraska’s legislature has devoted little attention or funding to surface water quality, and the result has been slow progress in making Nebraska rivers fishable and swimmable once more.

Nebraska Wildlife Federation is working to educate the public about our polluted streams. We support state and federal funding to put in place watershed cleanup plans that will make our rivers and lakes swimmable and fishable once again.

Our Adopt a Stream program was created to engage volunteers in monitoring and conserving their local stream, lake or wetland. Nebraska rivers, lakes and wetlands won’t get cleaned up until more Nebraskans realize, and care, about the problem.