Colorado River is America’s most endangered river, environmental group says

The Colorado River, which provides drinking water for some 40 million people and irrigates cropland to feed many more, is the most endangered river in the country, the American Rivers environmental nonprofit announced.

The federal government declared a first ever water shortage on the Colorado River last summer and reservoirs along the waterway have hit historic lows. Experts have said for years that climate change is worsening conditions in the river basin faster than predicted and the coming years look just as bleak.

“What we’re facing now is the permanent warming and drying of the American Southwest,” Brad Udall, a climate research scientist at Colorado State University, said in a release from American Rivers. “What we’re seeing here is anything but normal, because normal implies predictability.”

That drying is called “aridification,” Udall said.

But climate change is just part of the problem, American Rivers said in its annual report. Also to blame are outdated water management practices and the “overallocation” of the river’s water.

The nonprofit called on President Joe Biden’s administration to launch “proven, equitable solutions that enhance water security and river health” while also guarding against future effects of climate change.

“Failure is simply not an option, given all that depends on a healthy, flowing Colorado River,” American Rivers said.

The top ten most endangered rivers, as ranked by the nonprofit, are as follows:

  • Colorado River
  • Snake River
  • Mobile River
  • Maine’s Atlantic Salmon Rivers
  • Coosa River
  • Mississippi River
  • Lower Kern River
  • San Pedro River
  • Los Angeles River
  • Tar Creek

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