Rivers Endangered in the Face of Climate Change
Drought. A word that has been spread across news headlines, felt by cities, and argued about between upstream and downstream farm communities. Last year’s drought affected 65% of the country, specifically impacting over 2000 counties. While the water shortages may be “out of sight, out of mind” in many drought stricken areas, remembering past droughts and the effects they have on local residents and communities is essential for future sustainability.
Unfortunately, in conjunction with these drought conditions, many communities and states have extremely outdated water management, exacerbating the effects of the shortages. In fact, the top four on our list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2013, the Colorado River, Flint River, San Saba River, and Little Plover River are all facing inadequate water management regimes that are significantly impacting their environmental, social, and economic benefits.
The San Saba River, flowing through the Hill Country of Texas, is regarded as one of the most scenic landscapes in the state. The river flows through limestone bluffs and hills, supporting fish, wildlife, and recreation along the river and in the Austin Chain of Lakes. It also supports local communities too, supplying drinking water and irrigation to ranchers and farmers.
However, outdated and unregulated water management has caused this historically rich river to run dry. In Texas, there are no sealed meters and no accurate methods for the state to know whether irrigators are exceeding their allotted water withdrawal limits. This unregulated pumping in the last 12 years has almost dried up 50 miles of the river for about five months each year!
The time is now to do something. Droughts are likely to increase both in the duration and intensity due to a changing climate. It is critical for Texas to update their water management standards so the San Saba, and many other rivers and streams will be around for all to enjoy and utilize in the future. Let’s protect our treasured flows for ourselves today, and our children tomorrow.