Water is life, yet climate change and certain public policies may be endangering its future in America, a nonprofit group warns in a new report. The stakes are high, with the current presidential administration having proposed budget cuts that may eliminate some safeguards for clean drinking water and rivers nationwide.
That’s according to American Rivers, a Washington, D.C.-based conservation group, which released its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers on Tuesday. The list outlines rivers that the group warns face an urgent threat or critical decision point in the coming year.
The Lower Colorado River, which provides drinking water for more than 30 million Americans—including those in major cities like L.A., Las Vegas, and Phoenix—tops the list as the most endangered river this year. Second most endangered is the Bear River in California.
Similar to 2016’s list of the most endangered rivers, water scarcity, rising demand, and climate change put the Lower Colorado and Bear River at risk, says Amy Souers Kober, national communications director for American Rivers.
“The takeaway is that we can’t dam our way out of these problems,” Kober says. “On all of these rivers, we need 21st century water management solutions. We need political support and funding for water conservation.”
The Lower Colorado is challenged with water demands that outstrip supply and effects from climate change, the report says. Trump’s proposed cuts to the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture put the river at risk, the group argues. The reduced funding, if it passes Congress, could eventually lead to cutbacks on water deliveries to Arizona, California, and Nevada in the years ahead.
Additionally, the Lower Colorado is of particular importance to Latino communities, one-third of which live in the Colorado River Basin.
“From serving as the backbone for the agricultural industry to providing a cultural focal point for faith communities, the Lower Colorado River is essential to the livelihood of the Southwest,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation, in a press statement.
Other rivers on the list include the South Fork Skykomish in Washington; the Mobile Bay River in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi; and the Rappahannock River in Virginia.
Photo credit: By Paul Hermans – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22298121