Rivers & Streams

Healthy, clean water is intricately tied to healthy communities and our quality of life. River and watershed protection is a core component of The Conservation Foundation’s mission. 

Healthy streams are full of life – fish, aquatic bugs and plants, clean water, and good habitat for those fish and bugs to make homes in. They have well vegetated riparian land along them that helps to filter pollutants out of rain water draining towards the river, shade smaller streams, and provide habitat for wildlife. They are inviting places to explore, kayak down, fish in, or maybe just a quiet place to just sit and listen to water flowing over rocks. 

Many of our suburban streams do not quite fit this picture, they are impacted by polluted stormwater shunted off of our landscape through stormsewers, streambank erosion, the loss of intact riparian habitat along the stream corridors, dams that block fish passage and collect sediment, and invasive species. 

Although this sounds daunting, there are many exciting and innovative ways that The Conservation Foundation is working with communities, residents, and other organizations to clean up our local streams and rivers. 

Watershed Basics

What is a watershed anyway? And what actually lives in local rivers and streams? Find these answers and explore key waterway concepts that will equip you to create positive change for rivers and streams in your community. 

How The Conservation Foundation Works


The Conservation Foundation works in many ways to improve water quality in our local streams. Over the years we have built strong relationships with communities and proven ourselves as a leader in river and watershed protection through programs like: 

  • Providing technical staffing and support to local watershed management groups 
  • Coordinating opportunities for people to participate in protecting clean water like river clean-ups, storm drain medallions, and Conservation@Home 
  • Leading the Fox River Initiative – connecting people to the Fox River through art and education 
  • Expanding the Salt Smart Collaborative to provide training and resources for reducing road salt use while maintaining public safety 
  • Working with developers to encourage stormwater best management practices and provide for long-term, funded management of those practices through our Natural Areas Assurance Program 

Partnering for Clean Water

Some of our deepest impact on waterway health is through our dedicated staffing of four watershed workgroups. These groups, comprised of representatives from local communities and agencies, actively monitor streams and lead restoration projects that not only address water quality legislation but also enhance the overall well-being of our rivers and streams, and, by extension, our communities. 

What You Can Do

Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the challenges our environment faces, but there are many small steps that we can all make that will collectively make a difference in our local communities and beyond. Making simple changes in the way we use water and manage our households will mean cleaner water and healthier streams for us and future generations. 

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