Rivers & Streams


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.

It All Starts With A Raindrop

How does a rain drop turn into stormwater? As rain water falls and bounces off rooftops, roads, and parking lots it picks up pollutants like oil, road salt, fertilizers, and dirt as it flows across the built landscape and into a stormsewer. This polluted stormwater is either collected in stormwater basins before discharging to a local stream or it discharges to the stream directly.

These stormwater systems throughout our communities were built to move stormwater away from houses and businesses, but like everything else there are downsides. Not only does this system deliver polluted water to our streams, it also delivers large amounts of water to our streams faster than they can handle.

This is not how it used to be. The rain used to soak into the land and migrate through the ground and discharge naturally into the streams or work its way through the soil to recharge ground water aquifers. As development has occurred, more of the land is covered with impervious surfaces that water cannot soak into so instead it flows across the landscape.

The good news is that there are ways that communities and residents can help to reverse this trend and utilize rainwater as the resource that it is. Learn more here. 

Ways The Conservation Foundation Works


The Conservation Foundation works in many collaborative and innovative 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 the DuPage County River Sweep, Stormdrain Stenciling, and Conservation@Home
  • Leading the Fox River Initiative – connecting people to the Fox River through art and education
  • Tailoring our programs through our Conservation In Our Community Program to fit a communities needs and strengthen a conservation culture
  • Expanding the Salt Smart Collaborative to provide a regional clearinghouse of 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


we're working in

From the tiny creek running through your neighborhood to the mighty rivers that define the towns along their banks, we’re working in the water, on the streets, and around the conference table to improve the health of rivers and streams in northeastern Illinois. 

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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