Maroon Bells mountains on the White River (via US Department of Agriculture)
The rivers of the United States are essential to drinking water for millions of Americans and the survival of natural communities around their banks, but they are drying up and being corralled by dams and diversions. The nonprofit environmental advocacy group American Rivers released their America’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers for 2014 list earlier this month outlining those waterways in the greatest danger.
The ranking was determined by the level of reliance of both humans and nature alike, the strength of the threat, and the imminence of decisions that will be impacting the rivers’ future. The peril for the rivers ranges from outdated dam and fish passage systems such as at Washington’s White River and California’s San Francisquito Creek, to the reduction of floodplains and increase of diversions as with two giants of riverdom: the Middle Mississippi River and Upper Colorado River. Then there are development and industrial issues like the “megaload” trucks that pass by Idaho’s Middle Fork Clearwater-Lochsa River creating both a visual and environmental blight, as well as the wastewater runoff polluting North Carolina’s Haw River.
However, at the top of the list is California’s San Joaquin River. The largest river in the state gets the harrowing first place for its dated water management which has left much of it running dry, even as it provides drinking water for millions. American Rivers’ mission is to raise the public profile of these rivers, which is especially essential for San Joaquin. As Scientific American reports, there are two major legislative and management decisions impending on San Joaquin, including the state’s Water Resources Control Board updating its Bay Delta Water Quality Plan, along with a potentially devastating overturning of a settlement agreement for its restoration by Congress.
Below are the top 10 most endangered rivers per the American Rivers report, and their site includes information on what you can do to help protect them from deteriorating further.
1 - San Joaquin River, California
San Joaquin River (photograph by Richard E. Ellis)
2 - Upper Colorado River, Colorado
Colorado River (via Grand Canyon National Park)
3 - Middle Mississippi River, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky
Aerial view of the Mississippi River (photograph by rmadlo119/Flickr user)
4 - Gila River, New Mexico
Gila River downstream from Coolidge Dam (photograph by Alan Stark)
5 - San Francisquito Creek, California
Searsville Dam on San Francisquito Creek (photograph by Gazebo/Wikimedia)
6 - South Fork Of The Edisto River, South Carolina
Edisto River in South Carolina (photograph by mogollon_1/Flickr user)
7 - White River, Colorado
Maroon Lake on the White River (via US Department of Agriculture)
8 - White River, Washington
White River’s Triple Drop (photograph by Zachary Collier)
9 - Haw River, North Carolina
A rocky area of Haw River (photograph by Donald Lee Pardue)
10 - Middle Fork Clearwater & Lochsa Rivers, Idaho
The Lochsa River in Clearwater National Forest (via Fredlyfish4/Wikimedia)
Read more about America’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers for 2014 at American Rivers.