This is a guest post from American Rivers, the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Since 1973, American Rivers has helped protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered RiversŪ.
For more than two decades, American Rivers has released its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers. American Rivers released the 2013 list today, and the river at the top – the most endangered river in the nation – is the mighty Colorado.
The Colorado River is a lifeline in the desert, its water sustaining tens of millions of people in seven states, as well as endangered fish and wildlife. Thirty million people in the Southwest depend on water from the Colorado River for their water and food, not to mention the millions more who flock to the river to boat and raft and those who stand in awe atop the Grand Canyon to witness the breathtaking formations formed by this magnificent and powerful river.
The Colorado River headwaters are nestled in Rocky Mountain National Park, beginning its flow at more than 12,000 feet of elevation along the rugged ridge tops that form the Continental Divide. The river runs 1,450 miles through mountains, canyons deserts on its journey to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. The entire Southwest United States completely depends on the Colorado River and its tributaries – the states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and California use the river’s water for farming, drinking, growing lawns and generating hydroelectric power.
But our demands on the river’s water now far exceed its supply, leaving the river so over-tapped that it no longer flows to the sea. A century of water management policies and practices promoting wasteful water use have put the river at a critical crossroads.
Today, American Rivers is naming the Colorado River the #1 Most Endangered River in the country because of outdated water management. The Colorado River faces critical decisions this year, along with another summer of drought. The river is also emblematic of many of the water supply challenges – and opportunities – facing rivers and communities nationwide.
To address ongoing drought and increasing demand for water, and to put the Colorado River on a path to recovery, American Rivers and its partners are calling on Congress and the Obama Administration to help put the basin on a path to recovery. They’re urging Congress to provide funding to build 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.
Rivers are remarkably resilient. Time and again we have proven that, when we allow them to, rivers can restore themselves – and continue to benefit our communities in the process. The American Rivers’ Most Endangered Rivers report has a track record of success. Rivers listed in the past, like Wyoming’s Hoback River and Washington’s White Salmon and Elwha rivers, have been saved. With your help, we can turn the Colorado River into a success story, too. We can take the first step today.
We urge you to take action to save the Colorado River today. And share your action with your friends online and on the ground. Together we can save the Colorado River.
Photo of Horseshoe Bend (a portion of the Colorado River in Arizona) by Paxson Woelber courtesy of American Rivers.