Announcing America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2017

Drinking water source for 30 million people. Growing 90% of our nation’s winter vegetables. The Lower Colorado River is America’s Most Endangered River of 2017.

Farm worker | Amy Martin

This is a critical year for rivers and clean water. Our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2017 report sounds the alarm.

This year’s report highlights the threat President Trump’s proposed budget cuts pose to rivers and communities nationwide. Number one on this year’s list is the Lower Colorado River, where the communities, economy, and natural resources of the southwestern U.S. will be threatened if the Trump Administration and Congress don’t prioritize and fund innovative water management solutions.

Young Woman | Amy Martin
We must protect and restore rivers and clean water for our families, our economy and our future. | Photo: Amy Martin.

“Water is one of the most crucial conservation issues of our time,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. “The rivers Americans depend on for drinking water, jobs, food and quality of life are under attack from the Trump administration’s rollbacks and proposed budget cuts.”

“Americans must speak up and let their elected officials know that healthy rivers are essential to our families, our communities and our future. We must take care of the rivers that take care of us.” Irvin said.

President Trump has abandoned critical river protections including the Clean Water Rule, leaving small streams and wetlands – sources of drinking water for one in three Americans – vulnerable to harmful development and pollution.

He has also proposed significant budget cuts that would cripple river restoration and protection efforts nationwide, with severe impacts to drinking water supplies, fish and wildlife and recreation.

Young Boy | Amy Martin
The Lower Colorado River provides drinking water to 30 million Americans in cities including Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Yuma. | Photo: Amy Martin.

These cuts would impact the rivers on this year’s America’s Most Endangered Rivers list. For example:

  • Cuts to the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture could hamstring efforts to find water management solutions to meet the crisis on the Lower Colorado River.
  • Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency could undermine regulation of pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations like those on the Neuse-Cape Fear and the Buffalo National River.
  • Virtually zeroing out the Land and Water Conservation Fund would eliminate opportunities such as the conservation purchases that have helped protect Washington’s Green River.
  • Cuts to the Department of the Interior likely would foreclose any opportunity to adequately fund the proper planning, management, and protection of the neglected Wild and Scenic Rivers System, including the Buffalo National River and Middle Fork Flathead — a sorry state of affairs as the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act approaches its 50th anniversary in 2018.

America’s Most Endangered River, the lower Colorado, provides drinking water for 30 million Americans, irrigates fields that grow 90 percent of the nation’s winter vegetables and slakes the thirst of growing cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix. But the water demands of Arizona, Nevada and California are outstripping supply, the impacts of climate change are becoming acute, and the river is at a breaking point.

If the deficit is not addressed, the Bureau of Reclamation will be forced to cut water deliveries, with severe economic impacts to farms and cities across Arizona, Nevada and California.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget proposal threatens to reverse progress made by states, cities and farmers to reduce water consumption across the three states.

American Rivers called on Congress and the Trump Administration to provide support, leadership and financial resources for innovative water savings and transfer projects to conserve and share the region’s water assets.

Farm worker | Amy Martin
The Lower Colorado River is the lifeblood of the region’s agricultural industry. | Photo: Amy Martin

The future of the Lower Colorado River is of particular importance to the region’s Latino communities. One-third of the nation’s Latinos live in the Colorado River Basin.

The significance of the river to the faith, livelihood and future of Latino farm-working families is showcased in the new film Milk and Honey, produced by American Rivers and the Hispanic Access Foundation (full film coming Thursday, April 13).

“The Lower Colorado River is an integral part of our heritage and way of life. 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.

“By taking action now we can make strides in ensuring that future generations can continue to benefit from this tremendous resource.”

9 responses to “Announcing America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2017

  1. You Forgot The Highly Polluted Saint Lucie River in Florida that is so polluted its producing HUGE fish and already endangered Manatee kills! This is all thanks to the Big Sugar Industry and our wonderful Florida state Government that won’t do anything to STOP this HUGE disaster!

  2. This is an excellent overview and discussion of the threats our rivers and clean water supply are facing in present year. I am left with mixed feelings of danger from the current administration but also hope from groups like you and your readers. The issues are undoubtedly complicated and unique across the country, as some comenters have pointed out, so in the context of water issues, I plan to research the state of my local rivers and watersheds and the issues facing them before I get over involved with issues across the country/world. Thanks!

  3. You do know that the reason oil trains run along the Flathead River is that local Native Americans ordered closed a pipeline that ran through their reservation and had spilled. They figured that trains would be much safer, and those trains have run along that stretch of river twice daily ever since, without any incident, for decades. Or is it your agenda to simply stop shipping oil products completely? I normally support most environmental issues, but this one, involving the Flathead River, is ridiculous.

  4. There is nothing wrong with the lower Colorado that 2 years of serious snowpack and a less greedy California wouldn’t solve. Nevada and Arizona both have serious water management regimens in place and have been doing their part. Now that Governor Moonbeam has declared his state’s draught to be over (snickering in background…), instead of indulging your “progressive”, anti-Trump bias, I challenge you to urge CA to cut back on their usage of the Colorado and develop a instate plan for new infrastructure to retain available surface water in good winters such as this one.

    1. You seem to hold biases of your own, yet you bash others for theirs.

      There is a word for that: Hypocrisy.

  5. Three Virginia Outdoors Foundation conservation easements specifically allow oil and gas exploration, extraction, mining, and/or fracking right next to the Rappahannock River in Essex County:

    – the Blandfield Plantation easement allows 88 oil wells and 24 gas wells.

    – the Kendale Farm easement was amended twice to allow “oil and gas mining” and “the right to explore for and extract oil and gas.”

    – the Beverly Marsh easement allows “extraction of oil and gas” in a pristine tidal marsh.

    Whereas other Essex County landowners PROHIBIT oil and gas operations, these sophisticated and savvy owners went to extraordinary efforts to make sure their so-called “conservation” easements ALLOW industrial oil and gas operations! They now have the explicit right to drill for oil and gas right across from the Rappahannock River National Wildlife Refuge – by the state agency charged with protecting land and marshes!

    The owner of two of these easements is a Director of the Essex County Countryside Alliance. The other owner is friends with the President of the Essex County Countryside Alliance (who just happens to have been on the Board of Trustees of Virginia Outdoors Foundation when it approved the 88 oil wells and 24 gas wells in the easement).

    With conservation organizations like these – who needs the Virginia Petroleum Council fighting for fracking?

    Thank you to Friends of the Rappahannock for applying to have the Rappahannock put on the America’s Most Endangered Rivers list. Hopefully, the increased awareness will lead to Virginia Outdoors Foundation and these landowners amending these easements to PROHIBIT fracking next to the Rappahannock River.

    Note: map and copies of the easement documents are available at

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