7:16am

Wed April 17, 2013
Environment

Colorado River Named "Most Endangered"

Conservation advocacy group American Rivers has released its annual list of endangered waterways – and this year the Colorado River is at the top of the list.

The report [.pdf], titled “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” points to persistent drought and outdated water management policies as the reason.

"It has always been the nature of the resource to pit state against state, to make sure that people get what they need first – and they have not worked together," says American Rivers’ Matt Niemerski. "That needs to change."

Map of the Colorado River Basin
Credit Wikimedia - Creative Commons

Niemerski tells Colorado News Connection that the seven Western states that depend on the Colorado for water aren't accustomed to cooperating for a scarce resource. Each state has its own water management policies and practices, and he says they need to be better aligned.

A recent federal analysis [.pdf] found there isn't enough water in the river to meet current or future demands.

This is the third time since 1991 that the Colorado River has topped the most endangered list.

The Colorado River irrigates roughly 4 million acres of farmland, and provides drinking water for 36 million people from Denver to Los Angeles. American Rivers says the Colorado generates 250,000 jobs from outdoor recreation alone.

Scientists predict the Colorado's flow will decrease by 10 to 30 percent by 2050. They blame climate change for much of the drop.