American Rivers Announces America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2024

April 16, 2024

List underscores threats to clean water, drinking water 

Washington, D.C. – American Rivers released its list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® today, sounding the alarm about threats to clean water and drinking water nationwide. 

Number one on the list is the Rivers of New Mexico, threatened by a Supreme Court decision that overturned decades of federal Clean Water Act protections. The court’s May 2023 decision impacts New Mexico more than any other state – leaving roughly 96 percent of New Mexico’s streams vulnerable to pollution, with potential harmful downstream impacts to the Rio Grande, Gila, San Juan, and Pecos rivers.   

“All water is connected. We cannot allow pollution anywhere without risk to the rivers we rely on for our drinking water,” said Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers. “Our leaders must hold polluters accountable and strengthen the Clean Water Act to safeguard our health and communities.” 

The Supreme Court’s Sackett v. EPA ruling stripped federal protections for half the nation’s wetlands and up to 4 million miles of streams – the drinking water sources for 40 million Americans. The threat is particularly acute in New Mexico, despite the state’s commitment and proven record of protecting its clean water and natural resources. This is because the court decision cut protections for streams that only run during the rainy season or for periods of the year after snowmelt– typical in an arid environment.  

“Santa Fe’s drinking water depends on strong protections for small streams that feed into the Santa Fe River and the Rio Grande. The Sackett decision has stripped away those protections and our residents are now at risk,” said Anna Hansen, Santa Fe County Commission. 

“People depend on this water. We have depended on this water for hundreds of years. This is our tradition, this is our culture. We don’t want to be a people that loses its traditions because we haven’t taken the right steps to protect our rivers,” said Vicente Fernandez, Acequia mayordomo and community leader in New Mexico. 

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2024 spotlights threats to clean water nationwide, including: 

  • Connecticut’s Farmington River, the drinking water source for nearly 400,000 people, threatened by a hydropower dam causing toxic algae outbreaks 
  • Tennessee’s Duck River, a drinking water source and hotspot for biodiversity, at risk from excessive water withdrawals 
  • California and Mexico’s Tijuana River, choked with pollution causing illness and beach closures 
  • West Virginia’s Blackwater River, where a proposed highway threatens water quality, wildlife, and recreation 
  • California’s Trinity River, a vital source of clean, cold water for the Klamath River, at risk from water diversions 

“Before the Clean Water Act, rivers were so polluted that they caught on fire. We must not go backwards,” said Kiernan. “President Biden has proposed policies and funding that represent a real investment in our water, but we need Congress and those in Statehouses across the country to act. Our health and our future are directly linked to our rivers. America’s Most Endangered Rivers is a national call to action to defend the streams and rivers on which all life depends.” 

Nationwide, much of our drinking water comes from rivers and streams. Rural and urban areas depend on rivers for clean drinking water, food production, economic vitality, and cultural connection. But the EPA estimates that forty-four percent of waterways in the U.S. are too polluted for fishing or swimming. Freshwater species are going extinct faster than ocean or land species, and rivers are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. Climate change is fueling more severe floods and droughts, and unjust policies put the burden of these impacts disproportionately on communities of color and Tribal Nations. 

In its 39th year, America’s Most Endangered Rivers® amplifies the voices of local leaders speaking up for rivers at risk. By generating national attention and mobilizing the public to act, the campaign delivers results for rivers and all of the life they support.  

  1. The river’s significance to people and wildlife 
  2. The magnitude of the threat to the river and communities, especially in light of climate change and environmental injustice 
  3. A decision in the next 12 months that the public can influence 

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2024 

#1: Rivers of New Mexico   
Threat: Loss of federal clean water protections  

#2: Big Sunflower and Yazoo Rivers (MS) 
Threat: Yazoo Pumps project threatens wetlands  

#3: Duck River (TN)  
Threat: Excessive water use   

#4: Santa Cruz River (AZ, Mexico)  
Threat: Water scarcity, climate change  

#5 Little Pee Dee River (NC, SC) 
Threat: Harmful development, highway construction  

#6 Farmington River (CT, MA) 
Threat: Hydro dam  

#7: Trinity River (CA)  
Threat: Outdated water management  

#8: Kobuk River (AK) 
Threat: Road construction, mining  

#9 Tijuana River (CA, Mexico) 
Threat: Pollution  

#10: Blackwater River (WV) 
Threat: Highway development  

About American Rivers 
American Rivers is championing a national effort to protect and restore all rivers, from remote mountain streams to urban waterways. Healthy rivers provide people and nature with clean, abundant water and natural habitat. For 50 years, American Rivers staff, supporters, and partners have shared a common belief: Life Depends on RiversSM.