For more than two decades, American Rivers has released its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers, and this week, the river at the top of the 2013 list— 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 upon the Colorado River for drinking water and irrigation for food — not to mention the millions more who flock to it to boat and those who stand atop the Grand Canyon to view the breathtaking formations created by this magnificent and powerful river.
As Americans, we are lucky to have this river in our proverbial backyard. But our demands on the river’s water now far exceed supply, leaving the river so over-tapped that it no longer flows into the sea (a problem that Pete McBride explored in his film Chasing Water, which screened at Mountainfilm in Telluride 2011). A century of water management policies and practices promoting wasteful water use have put the river at a critical crossroads.
American Rivers has named the Colorado River the #1 Most Endangered River in the country because of outdated water management.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, 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, when we allow them to, rivers can restore themselves — and continue to benefit our communities in the process. The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report has a track record of success. Rivers listed in the past, such as Wyoming’s Hoback River and Washington’s WhiteSalmon and Elwha rivers, have been saved. With your help, the Colorado River could be a success story, too.
We urge you to take action to save the Colorado River. And please share your action with your friends online and on the ground.
Watch filmmaker Pete McBride’s new video about the Colorado River: