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  • Allison Stalker

America’s Most Endangered Rivers

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

American Rivers recently released their annual list of America’s most endangered rivers. Topping the list is the Colorado River, suffering from outdated water management. The existing management system cannot handle the pressures of over-allocation and persistent drought.

“This year’s America’s Most Endangered Rivers report underscores the problems that arise for communities and the environment when we drain too much water out of rivers,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. “The Colorado River, the #1 Most Endangered River in the nation, is so over-tapped that it dries up to a trickle before reaching the sea. We simply cannot continue with status quo water management. It is time for stakeholders across the Colorado Basin to come together around solutions to ensure reliable water supplies and a healthy river for future generations.”

The importance of the Colorado River is high. It provides drinking water to thirty-six million people from Denver to Los Angeles and irrigates almost four million acres of land. Additionally, the low flows in the river threaten endangered fish and wildlife as well as the $26 billion dollar recreation economy based on the Colorado River. According to the report release, the current demand for water from the river cannot be met and “scientists predict climate change will reduce the Colorado River’s flow by 10 to 30 percent by 2050”.

American Rivers and other organizations are urging congress to take action by building “a future that includes healthy rivers, state-of-the-art water conservation for cities and agriculture, and water sharing mechanisms that allow communities to adapt to warmer temperatures and more erratic precipitation”.

The next three rivers on the list are also endangered due to outdated water management. These include Flint River in Georgia, San Saba River in Texas and Little Plover River in Wisconsin. These threats put water supplies, river flows and fish habitats at risk.

The list continues with the Catawba River, Boundary Waters, Black Warrior River, Rough & Ready and Baldface Creeks, Kootenai River, and Niobrara River. The threats to these include coal ash pollution, copper and nickel mining, coal mining and sediment build-up and flooding.

The annual American Rivers list of endangered rivers considers rivers where key decisions are impending that will help determine the fate of the river. In the past, the list has helped bring the successful removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.


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