America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2022 Spotlights Rivers in Crisis Mode

Today we are announcing America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2022 and sounding the alarm that our nation’s rivers and clean water are in crisis.

By Jessie Thomas-Blate | April 19, 2022
Coosa River | Photo by Abraham Odrezin
Coosa River | Photo by Abraham Odrezin

Catastrophic drought. Disastrous floods. Fish and other freshwater species nearing extinction, as rivers heat up.

Many people in the United States have imagined climate change as a problem in the future. But it is here now, and the primary way that each of us is experiencing climate change is through water. The climate crisis is a water crisis.

Today we are announcing America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2022 and sounding the alarm that our nation’s rivers and clean water are in crisis.  Topping the list this year is the Colorado River, which is threatened by climate change and outdated water management. Thirty federally-recognized Tribal Nations, seven states, Mexico and 40 million people who rely on the river for drinking water are being impacted by this crisis. Also threatened is vital habitat for wildlife, as the Basin is home to 30 native fish species, two-thirds of which are threatened or endangered, and more than 400 bird species.

Lake Mead, AZ | Photo by Colleen Miniuk
Lake Mead, AZ | Photo by Colleen Miniuk

In March 2022, water levels at Lake Powell (the impoundment created by Glen Canyon Dam in Utah/Arizona) fell to the lowest point since the lake first filled in 1980. The Colorado River system is already operating at a deficit, and climate change is expected to further reduce the river’s flow by 10 to 30 percent by 2050. We’re calling on the Biden administration and the seven Basin states to work together to allocate funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to implement proven, equitable solutions that prioritize river health and water security.

Our country’s rivers need attention now. We must work better. Smarter. More equitably. We must elevate Tribal Nations and learn from their Traditional Ecological Knowledge. We must work collaboratively with frontline communities along the Mississippi River, and in places like the Mobile River (AL) and Tar Creek (OK), where residents deal with pollution on a regular basis. We must heed the calls of Tribal Nations to restore rivers like the Snake River.

California makes a prominent appearance in the report this year as well. In addition to the Colorado River (a key source of drinking water for some California residents), also featured are the Los Angeles River (threatened by inadequate management, climate change and pollution) and the Lower Kern River (threatened by excessive water withdrawals).

Kern River | Photo by Bring Back the Kern
Kern River | Photo by Bring Back the Kern

No matter where you live in the United States, your river and your drinking water are affected by climate change. Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x and other communities of color feel these impacts most acutely, due to historical and contemporary policies, practices and norms that maintain inequities. It’s time to follow the lead of frontline communities that are advancing solutions for rivers and clean water — solutions that will make us all safer and healthier, and our nation stronger.

Did you know that later this year is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act? How can it be that are we still battling over the importance of clean water? This battle comes to the ground on Arizona’s San Pedro River where rollbacks to the Clean Water Act initiated during the Trump administration have removed protections for seasonal and intermittent streams, which encompass almost 94 percent of the San Pedro River’s waterways and provide the lifeblood that sustains the river. We must protect the Waters of the U.S. now, before it is too late.

Rounding out this year’s report are Alabama’s COOSA RIVER, which is threatened by pollution from industrial poultry farming, and MAINE’S ATLANTIC SALMON RIVERS, where we have an opportunity to save Atlantic salmon by making better decisions during the upcoming relicensing of hydropower dams.

Kennebec River, Maine | Photo by Atlantic Salmon Federation
Kennebec River, Maine | Photo by Atlantic Salmon Federation

All of these rivers face critical decisions this year, and you can do something to help. Go check out your favorite river from this report and TAKE ACTION TODAY!

If we are to meet this moment and confront the challenges facing our clean water, environment and communities, we must come together as a powerful movement, speaking up for the rivers that give us life — for these 10 endangered rivers, and all of the rivers essential to our shared future.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2022

#1 Colorado River

State: CO, UT, AZ, NV, CA, WY, NM, Mexico

Threat: Climate change, outdated water management

#2 Snake River

State: ID, WA, OR

Threat: Four federal dams

#3 Mobile River

State: AL

Threat: Coal ash contamination

#4 Maine’s Atlantic Salmon Rivers

State: ME

Threat: Dams

#5 Coosa River

State: TN, GA, AL

Threat: Agricultural pollution

#6 Mississippi River

State: MN, WI, IL, IA, MO, KY, TN, AR, MS, LA

Threat: Pollution, habitat loss

#7 Lower Kern River

State: CA

Threat: Excessive water withdrawals

#8 San Pedro River

State: AZ

Threat: Excessive water pumping; loss of Clean Water Act protections

#9 Los Angeles River

State: CA

Threat: Development, pollution

#10 Tar Creek

State: OK

Threat: Pollution

Climate Change & Rivers, Conserving Clean Water, Dam Removal, Discover Rivers, Environmental Justice, Floods & Floodplains, Most Endangered Rivers, Protecting Rivers, Science, Take Action, Water Pollution, Water Supply, Wild and Scenic Rivers

5 responses to “America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2022 Spotlights Rivers in Crisis Mode”

  • Khizar Hayat says:

    Great work.
    Rivers all over the world are under threat as recent floods in Pakistan were due to cloud burst and hill torrents but the overflows of water bodies in South Punjab, Sindh and plain areas of Balochistan are due to the thin River bed. Over the passage of time river paths are shrinking. An extensive research inquiry to this issue is to be carried out.
    Regard. Khizar Hayat
    Lecture In Political Science
    The Islamia University of Bahawalpur Punjab Pakistan

  • Peggy Shepard says:

    Endangered Salmon in the Snoqualmie river that endangered Orca whales in the Puget Sound WA need are dwindling. In Snoqualmie the city is pushing to develop next to the Snoqualmie river on land that the state’s department of Ecology has listed as potentially one of the most contaminated sites in the state. The city’s elected officials are pushing back on environmental clean up, and has spent and commits to spend much more taxpayer dollars on legal costs and infrastructure to entice developers and squash clean up of the contaminated site even though the comprehensive plan says it will. The state does not enforce clean up of contaminated sites.

    East King County last studied water availability in 1991, which is made part of the cities drinking water system plans along the river with projections that their cities will not have enough potable water, and the cost for water and sewer fees are unaffordable for some.

  • Muhammad Masum Khan says:

    River extinction is a global problem but in our Bangladesh it is too acute to imagine as out of 1300 rivers 1000 have already been extinct.Of the remaining Surviviving 300 rivers many are seriously polluated. In our country people are randomely polluting rivers by violating laws.
    I am the secretary of a organisation named Nodi-khal O Paribesh Rokkha Committee. (River,Canal and Environment Protection Committee)
    I would like to know how you are working to save waters.
    Wishing best of luck.

  • Jamie abraham says:

    My friend here that’s 81 years old has been hearing this for years and she knows that it is definitely a problem and she lives right here on the water in Bay county Florida and I stay with her and I have a huge concern for our water being clean because I like living

  • Jerry w scher says:

    All of the politicians and people who want to be responsible for looking after our country and it’s resources need to start doing the jobs they said they could do better than anybody else. It’s just a game to them to get power positions, than they sit back and hope everything will turn out okay.

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