Southwest Regional Work

Elk Crossing River, Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, (Colorado River), CO  | Matt Inden/Miles, Colorado Tourism OfficeElk Crossing River, Estes Park, CO | Matt Inden/Miles, Colorado Tourism

In the arid Southwest, water is life. American Rivers has a strong track record of advocating for the rivers that are so vital to this region’s environment, economy, and quality of life.

We led the effort to remove an outdated dam on Arizona’s Fossil Creek, and are now leading the call for Wild and Scenic designation to protect the creek’s beautiful flowing waters.

The Colorado Basin

The Colorado River is the lifeline of the Southwest – its waters sustaining more than 36 million people, a great majority of our nation’s food supply, and endangered fish and wildlife across seven states and two countries. The Colorado also supports a $26 billion dollar recreation economy that supports and sustains tens of thousands of jobs across the west. However, demand on the river’s water exceeds its supply, leaving the river so over-tapped that it dries up nearly 100 miles from its historical juncture at the Sea of Cortez. A century of water management policies and practices that have promoted wasteful water use have put the river at a critical crossroads, which is why American Rivers named the Colorado one of our nations Most Endangered Rivers in both 2013 and 2014.

But the Colorado River is not alone in requiring attention and thoughtful action to improve its health and vitality in the Colorado Basin. Other rivers too, like the Gila and the Fraser, are targets for new dams or increased diversion, threatening their very survival, while a number of free-flowing like the Yampa, the Eagle, and the Crystal deserve protection to keep their wild nature intact.

And the most iconic landscape in America, the Grand Canyon, is literally ringed by legacy development and new development proposals that threaten the spirit and sanctity that are the reason for millions of Americans to identify with this landscape, as author Kevin Fedarko cites, our national “Cathedral without a Roof.”

American Rivers works across the country to protect wild rivers, restore damaged rivers, and conserve clean water for people and nature. As one of our priority basins, the Colorado Basin is a region of special importance, where increased focus and diligence is necessary to preserve and sustain the rivers, economic opportunity, and the people who live here for generations to come.

To learn more about the plight of individual rivers or regions, please explore the links below:

  • The Upper Colorado – decades of dams and diversions have put the Upper Colorado on the brink, and now there are proposals to remove even more water from the Upper Colorado and Fraser Rivers to pipe water east to the thirst Front Range.
  • The Gila River – As the last wild, free flowing river in New Mexico, the Gila is under imminent threat from a proposed dam and unnecessary diversion project.
  • The Grand Canyon – The nation’s most iconic National Park is under threat from an industrial-scale construction project on the East Rim of the Canyon and at river level, connected by a gondola that could deliver 10,000 people per day to the side of the Colorado River. Additionally, threats from increased groundwater development on the South Rim, and from Uranium mining on both the North and South Rims creates a situation that could greatly diminish the experience and vitality of this irreplaceable national treasure.
  • The Yampa River – one of the last remaining wild and free-flowing rivers in the west, the Yampa is a symbol for how wild rivers benefit communities, agriculture, wildlife, and a vibrant recreation economy, all while sustaining a healthy river.




I AM RED – English version



I AM RED (Soy Rojo) – En Español