America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2022 — @AmericanRivers

Click the link to read about America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2022 on the American Rivers website. Here’s an excerpt:

It is time to do more than plan. We must implement strategies that allow the Colorado River to thrive in the face of climate change. Failure is not an option.

The Colorado River provides drinking water for 40 million people, irrigates five million acres of farm and ranch land, and supports a $1.4 trillion economy. All of this is at risk due to rising temperatures and drought driven by climate change, combined with outdated river management and overallocation of limited water supplies. River flows are at historic lows and the levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoirs are dropping precipitously. With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the seven basin states and the Biden administration now have a critical opportunity to implement proven, equitable solutions that enhance water security and river health, while building resilience to future climate change. Failure is simply not an option, given all that depends on a healthy, flowing Colorado River.

American Rivers appreciates the collaboration and efforts of our partners:

  • National Audubon Society
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Western Resource Advocates
  • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  • Water for Arizona
  • Water for Colorado
  • Raise the River
  • Business for Water Stewardship
  • Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Click the link to read “America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2022 Spotlights Rivers in Crisis Mode” on the American Rivers website (Jessie Thomas-Blate):

    Today [April 18, 2022] we are announcing America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2022 and sounding the alarm that our nation’s rivers and clean water are in crisis.

    Catastrophic drought. Disastrous floods. Fish and other freshwater species nearing extinction, as rivers heat up.

    Many people in the United States have imagined climate change as a problem in the future. But it is here now, and the primary way that each of us is experiencing climate change is through water. The climate crisis is a water crisis.

    Today we are announcing America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2022 and sounding the alarm that our nation’s rivers and clean water are in crisis. Topping the list this year is the Colorado River, which is threatened by climate change and outdated water management. Thirty federally-recognized Tribal Nations, seven states, Mexico and 40 million people who rely on the river for drinking water are being impacted by this crisis. Also threatened is vital habitat for wildlife, as the Basin is home to 30 native fish species, two-thirds of which are threatened or endangered, and more than 400 bird species.

    Lake Powell just north of Glen Canyon Dam. January 2022. Jonathan P. Thompson photo.

    In March 2022, water levels at Lake Powell (the impoundment created by Glen Canyon Dam in Utah/Arizona) fell to the lowest point since the lake first filled in 1980. The Colorado River system is already operating at a deficit, and climate change is expected to further reduce the river’s flow by 10 to 30 percent by 2050. We’re calling on the Biden administration and the seven Basin states to work together to allocate funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to implement proven, equitable solutions that prioritize river health and water security.

    Map of the Mississippi River Basin. Made using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

    Our country’s rivers need attention now. We must work better. Smarter. More equitably. We must elevate Tribal Nations and learn from their Traditional Ecological Knowledge. We must work collaboratively with frontline communities along the Mississippi River, and in places like the Mobile River (AL) and Tar Creek (OK), where residents deal with pollution on a regular basis. We must heed the calls of Tribal Nations to restore rivers like the Snake River.

    California makes a prominent appearance in the report this year as well. In addition to the Colorado River (a key source of drinking water for some California residents), also featured are the Los Angeles River (threatened by inadequate management, climate change and pollution) and the Lower Kern River (threatened by excessive water withdrawals).

    No matter where you live in the United States, your river and your drinking water are affected by climate change. Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x and other communities of color feel these impacts most acutely, due to historical and contemporary policies, practices and norms that maintain inequities. It’s time to follow the lead of frontline communities that are advancing solutions for rivers and clean water — solutions that will make us all safer and healthier, and our nation stronger.

    Did you know that later this year is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act? How can it be that are we still battling over the importance of clean water? This battle comes to the ground on Arizona’s San Pedro River where rollbacks to the Clean Water Act initiated during the Trump administration have removed protections for seasonal and intermittent streams, which encompass almost 94 percent of the San Pedro River’s waterways and provide the lifeblood that sustains the river. We must protect the Waters of the U.S. now, before it is too late.

    Rounding out this year’s report are Alabama’s Coosa River, which is threatened by pollution from industrial poultry farming, and Maine’s Atlantic Salmon Rivers, where we have an opportunity to save Atlantic salmon by making better decisions during the upcoming relicensing of hydropower dams.

    All of these rivers face critical decisions this year, and you can do something to help. Go check out your favorite river from this report and TAKE ACTION TODAY!

    If we are to meet this moment and confront the challenges facing our clean water, environment and communities, we must come together as a powerful movement, speaking up for the rivers that give us life — for these 10 endangered rivers, and all of the rivers essential to our shared future.

    America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2022

    Colorado River in Grand Junction. Photo credit: Allen Best

    #1 Colorado River

    State: CO, UT, AZ, NV, CA, WY, NM, Mexico

    Threat: Climate change, outdated water management

    The Snake River, Jackson Lake Dam and the Teton Range. 1997 photo/Wikipedia

    #2 Snake River

    State: ID, WA, OR

    Threat: Four federal dams

    The Mobile River, taken from the site of the former Fort Stoddert near Mount Vernon, Alabama. Date: 21 March 2009. Source: Own work Author: Altairisfar

    #3 Mobile River

    State: AL

    Threat: Coal ash contamination

    Evening on the Sheepscot River. Walking along the river in Wiscasset. Weekend trip to Maine for a friend’s wedding, October 2009. By Tim Sackton – Flickr: Evening on the Sheepscot River, CC BY-SA 2.0,

    #4 Maine’s Atlantic Salmon Rivers

    State: ME

    Threat: Dams

    October Colors On The Coosa River near Wetumpka, Alabama. By Mike Cline – Own work, Public Domain,

    #5 Coosa River

    State: TN, GA, AL

    Threat: Agricultural pollution

    Mississippi River and Latch Island near Winona, Minnesota, July 2017.

    #6 Mississippi River

    State: MN, WI, IL, IA, MO, KY, TN, AR, MS, LA

    Threat: Pollution, habitat loss

    Panorama of the upper fork of the Kern River, Sierra Nevada, Kern County, California. By Roger Howard (talk · contribs), <>, more images at – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

    #7 Lower Kern River

    State: CA

    Threat: Excessive water withdrawals

    The San Pedro River near Palominas, Arizona.. By The Old Pueblo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

    #8 San Pedro River

    State: AZ

    Threat: Excessive water pumping; loss of Clean Water Act protections

    Kayakers float the Los Angeles River near the Sixth Street Bridge in downtown L.A. Photo credit Tom Andrews via The High Country News.

    #9 Los Angeles River

    State: CA

    Threat: Development, pollution

    Tar Creek, Oklahoma drains from a Superfund site. Photo: LEAD Agency

    #10 Tar Creek

    State: OK

    Threat: Pollution

    Restoration work along the Colorado River reestablished a riverbank more conducive to irrigation access. (Source: Paul Bruchez)

    Click the link to read “Colorado River named most endangered waterway in US” on the website (Carol McKinley). Here’s an excerpt:

    The Colorado River Basin is home to 30 native fish species, many of which are threatened. More than 400 bird species depend on the area as well. The 1,450-mile river provides water for Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Unlike Colorado’s other rivers, it touches all four corners of the state.

    Rancher Paul Bruchez, his dad and his brother moved their families from Westminster to Kremmling in 2000 with a dream of ranching in the mountains. They bought the 6,000-acre Reeder Creek Ranch in part because the Colorado River runs through it. For a couple of glorious years, all was flowing according to plan: The Rocky Mountain snowpack fed the river, the fish were thriving and the crops grew tall. But when the drought of 2002 hit, the snowmelt was around half of where it was supposed to be and warm temperatures made things worse, quickening the thaw so that runoff didn’t last very long. That year, Bruchez could walk across the river in places and see the fish going belly up in the warm water.

    “Come 2003, my family had a meeting. We wondered, did we move to the wrong place? Instead of leaving, we decided to adapt and adjust to the river flow, climate change and population growth,” Bruchez told The Denver Gazette.

    Seeing no quick fix, Bruchez established a restoration project and a Colorado Basin roundtable and prepared to go along for the ride. Over time, Bruchez’s projects have led to water savings and recovery.

    Lake Powell, just upstream from Glen Canyon Dam. At the time of this photo, in May 2021, Lake Powell was 34% full. (Ted Wood/The Water Desk)

    Click the link to read “Advocacy group asks Southwest to ‘amp up the urgency’ on protecting Colorado River water” on the website (Brandon Loomis). Here’s an excerpt:

    “The urgency is extreme,” American Rivers spokesman Sinjin Eberle said, noting that the river serves some 40 million people and production of most of the nation’s winter vegetables. “We have to do something now.”


    This year’s projection is not good. On the heels of two low-flow springs, the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center this month said current snowpack ready to melt suggests just 64% of normal flows will reach Lake Powell this season: 4.1 million acre-feet…

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck.

    “What we’re facing is the permanent warming and drying of the American Southwest,” Colorado State University water and climate scientist Brad Udall said in a statement. His research and outspoken warnings have suggested there’s little time to waste throttling back on water use when rising heat is causing plants and the atmosphere to sponge up springtime runoff before it ever reaches the river…

    For its part, Arizona is working with neighbors to pay some users to keep water in Lake Mead over the next few years. These efforts follow a first-ever federal shortage declaration for 2022, which caused Arizona to forego water that otherwise would support Pinal County farms. In response those farmers have planted less and shifted to a declining groundwater supply.

    The crisis is harming more than water suppliers’ outlooks. Lower reservoir levels are also limiting options for protecting the river’s own environment, especially in the Grand Canyon.

    The prioritization of power generation at Glen Canyon Dam contributed to a decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation not to release water to create an artificial flood to restore beaches and sandbars in Grand Canyon last fall, despite an abundance of rain-driven sand from last year’s monsoon season that had primed the river to deliver the desired results…

    Flaming Gorge Reservoir July 2020. Photo credit: Utah DWR

    Experiments with flushing water from Flaming Gorge Dam, upstream on the Green River, a Colorado River tributary, showed success in dislodging young bass from their protected nests and reducing numbers there, Bestgen told colleagues. A similar effort could make life hard for any bass that get established in Grand Canyon, but would further deplete Lake Powell’s storage.

    The Green and Colorado rivers cut through Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. A warming climate is adding to the drought-driven declines in snowmelt and spring runoff across the Colorado River Basin. (Source: LightHawk Conservation Flying/The Water Desk)

    Click the link to read “Colorado River named the most endangered in the U.S. by conservation group” on the Colorado Public Radio website (Michael Elizabeth Sakas). Here’s an excerpt:

    The report highlighted how climate change and drought have affected the river but also faulted outdated water management practices for dwindling flows and low reservoir levels. Rice said the stakes are high, and more needs to be done to conserve the water that’s left. He said the basin states and the Biden administration must work urgently with the tribes and Mexico.

    “We’ve made management decisions based on a river that hasn’t existed for a long time,” Rice said. “We have to use less water.”

    American Rivers also released a list of strategies it recommends to adapt to a drier and warmer world. Rice wrote for the report that the scale and pace of climate-related changes in the Colorado River Basin “pose a gargantuan challenge, unprecedented in the history of water management.” Those strategies include changes to how federal infrastructure dollars are spent, like prioritizing forest management, restoring natural meadow systems to improve water retention and aquifer recharge and covering reservoirs and canals to reduce evaporation.

    The report also details how drinking water across the U.S. is affected by climate change and notes how communities of color often feel these impacts most acutely because of “historical and contemporary policies, practices and norms that maintain inequities.” The report also urges water managers to follow the lead of tribal nations and frontline communities that are advancing solutions for rivers and clean water. Tribes in the Colorado River basin have long pushed for more inclusion in how the river is managed.

    Colorado Riverfront Trail September 2019.

    Click the link to read “Group lists Colorado River as most endangered” on the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel website (Dennis Webb). Here’s an excerpt:

    The Colorado River, or portions of it, have made the list in years prior, but the river is being stressed as never before because of the level of demands on it and its diminishing water volumes, thanks to drought exacerbated by climate change. As American Rivers notes, the river is relied on by seven states, 30 federally recognized tribal nations and Mexico. It provides drinking water to 40 million people and vital habitat, including 30 native fish species and more than 400 types of birds. It also has been besieged by drought throughout this century, made worse by warmer conditions that further reduce snowpack runoff volumes…

    Last summer, American Rivers and other conservation groups issued a list of 10 strategies to respond to climate change in the Colorado River Basin. These included things such as urban water conservation and reuse, shifting by farmers to crops requiring less water, improving land management practices to reduce the amount of dust that blows onto snowpack and accelerates snowmelt, prioritizing forest management and restoration, and upgrading agricultural infrastructure and operations. Rice also hopes to see increased efforts to restore headwaters, invest in watershed health, reconnect floodplains, ensure healthy riparian zones and restore rivers that have been diverted.

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