Click here to download and/or read the report Water Woes: How dams, diversions, dirty water and droughts put America’s wildlife at risk from the Endangered Species Coalition. Here’s the introduction:
Water is as essential to us as the air we breathe. And water, in all its forms, may bring us a fundamental joy that is unmatched by other elements of nature. Whether it’s splashing in puddles, running through a sprinkler, diving into a swimming hole, whitewater rafting a powerful river, skiing down a majestic mountain, ice-skating on a local pond, or just listening to the rush of a waterfall, our collective childhood memories include many wonderful experiences of water.
While water blankets our planet, 97 percent of it is salty, and 2 percent is locked in snow and ice. Therefore, less than 1 percent is available as freshwater, stored in rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers. This freshwater is our lifeblood. We’ve settled along riverbanks, and used freshwater for our enjoyment, transportation, irrigation, fisheries, recreational tourism, energy production, and drinking water. In short, we’ve spread this indispensible resource thinly.
Though we have an unabashed love for water, we treat it with little respect. We use water as our dumping grounds—the pollution and runoff from our cities, industries and farms spills into our rivers and other freshwater sources. We’ve diverted, damned and drained our rivers, parching some of our greatest ones out of existence. Even the mighty Colorado River, though strong enough to carve out the Grand Canyon, has been no match for our intensive water consumption. Most years, it no longer reaches the sea. In fact, few of our rivers remain pristine.
And new man-made threats are bearing down on our freshwater resources. Climate change is expected to increase droughts. According to scientific models climate change combined with population growth will result in much of the United States experiencing issues with water scarcity by 2025. Meanwhile, as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) spreads, so does the potential for more dirty water. According to an Argonne National Laboratory report, our oil and gas wells produce at least nine billion liters of contaminated water per day.
For the country’s imperiled wildlife, these threats are severe. We’ve seen massive fish kills, closures of multi-million fisheries and even the extinctions of species in the wild. Fish no longer reach their spawning grounds, frogs suffer from chemicals seeping through their delicate skins, introduced plants choke native ones from their habitats, exotic aquatic species threaten native fish, and development threatens the stream-side homes of mammals and birds.
This report details the top ten water woes for endangered species. It describes how our water management—our dams, diversions, dirty water and droughts have imperiled America’s wildlife, birds, fish and plants. But this is also a report about hope—how those of us living with threatened and endangered species can take action to help.
Thanks to one of the strongest endangered species laws in the world, we continue to protect our natural heritage. And it is not too late to save our species; across the country, we can all do our part. Supporting the groups involved in this report and their work to protect wildlife, plants and habitats is important. Standing up for wildlife protections is essential. And at home, we can make a difference by eliminating any leaks in plumbing; by installing water-efficient toilets, showerheads, washing machines, and dishwashers; by planting native plants adapted to our local environment; by reducing or eliminating our lawns; and by installing rain barrels to capture storm water for watering the garden.
Join us in protecting our country’s incredible web of life.
Thanks to the Colorado News Connection (Kathleen Ryan) via the Ag Journal for the heads up. From the article:
Leda Huta, the executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition, explains why this report is so significant. “When we look at the country and what we’ve done to our fresh water resources, it’s frightening. Every animal has its role to play in the ecosystem.”
The report finds the bonytail chub is functionally extinct, while three other species – the Colorado pike minnow, the humpback chub and the razorback sucker – are all declining in population because of non-native invasions, declining water, and river pollution. Other creatures on the national list include salmon, antelope and mountain yellow-legged frogs.
Huta says the declining availability and quality of water comes at a time when the planet can expect to have less fresh water available because of global warming. “We will see more drought and water scarcities due to climate change that we’ve created and to having an increasing population, so those two together are going to have even greater impact on our fresh water.”
The report highlights things people can do to reduce their demand on fresh water, which makes up only 1 percent of the water on the planet. That includes landscaping with native plants, reducing the size of lawns, and using water-efficient appliances and toilets.