American Rivers today announced its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers — naming California’s San Joaquin River the Most Endangered River in the country. Four million people live in the San Joaquin watershed. Outdated water management and excessive diversions, compounded by the current drought, have put the San Joaquin River at a breaking point.
American Rivers is calling on the California State Water Resources Control Board to increase flows in the river to protect water quality, fish, and recreation, and support sustainable agriculture. American Rivers is also urging Congress to preserve agreements and laws designed to protect the San Joaquin River and the jobs and communities it supports.
“The San Joaquin River is ground zero for water supply challenges, but it is also fertile ground for new and innovative water supply solutions,” said Bob Irvin, President, American Rivers. “We want a future with a healthy river and sustainable agriculture. This listing is a call to action for all of us to come together around solutions to protect and restore reliable and predictable clean water supplies and a healthy river for future generations.”
The river and its tributaries support some of the most productive and profitable agriculture in the world, irrigating more than two million acres of arid land. However, the river is so heavily exploited that it runs dry in certain stretches. The current drought is placing additional stress on the river and revealing the inadequacies of status quo water management for both people and the environment.
“On the San Joaquin and across the nation, communities can increase their ability to deal with drought now and in the future by protecting and restoring rivers and using water more efficiently,” said Irvin. “By prioritizing healthy rivers and sustainable water management, we can enjoy reliable clean water supplies, healthy fish and wildlife, recreation, and quality of life for generations to come.”
For the second year in a row, the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report underscores the problems that arise for communities and the environment when we drain too much water out of rivers. Last year the Colorado River was #1 on the list because of outdated water management. The Colorado River Basin remains in the spotlight this year, with water diversion threats placing the Gila River and the rivers of the Upper Colorado Basin on the Most Endangered list.
The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.
America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2014:
#1 San Joaquin River
Threat: Outdated water management and excessive diversions
At Risk: River health and resilient communities
#2 Upper Colorado River System
Threat: New trans-mountain water diversions
At Risk: River health and recreation
#3 Middle Mississippi River
Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky
Threat: Outdated flood management
At Risk: Wildlife habitat and public safety
#4 Gila River
Threat: New water diversions
At Risk: River health, fish & wildlife, recreation, and tourism
#5 San Francisquito Creek
At Risk: Fish and wildlife habitat and public safety
#6 South Fork Edisto River
Threat: Excessive water withdrawals
At Risk: Fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and water quality
#7 White River
Threat: Oil and gas drilling
At Risk: Drinking water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat
#8 White River
Threat: Outdated dam and fish passage facilities
At Risk: Salmon, steelhead, and bull trout populations
#9 Haw River
Threat: Polluted runoff
At Risk: Clean water
#10 Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers
Threat: Industrialization of a Wild and Scenic River corridor
At risk: Scenery, solitude, world-class recreational values