The yearly report of America’s Most Endangered Rivers was released on Wednesday by the Washington-based environmental group. At the top of the list for 2014 was San Joaquin River in central California, one of the sources of San Francisco’s drinking water and an agricultural resource for San Joaquin Valley.
Four million people live in the San Joaquin watershed and 23 million Californians get drinking water from it and South Delta. The river and its tributaries support some of the most productive and profitable agriculture in the world, irrigating more than two million acres of arid land.
“This year’s drought only heightened the urgency,” says Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers. More than 99.8% of the state of California is in some form of drought, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website.
American Rivers is calling on the California State Water Resources Control Board to increase flows in the river to protect water quality, fish, and recreation, and support sustainable agriculture. They are also urging Congress to preserve agreements and laws designed to protect the San Joaquin River and the jobs and communities it supports.
“What we’re advocating for is better water management regimes so that there is enough water for farms and fish,” said John Cain, the conservation director for California floodplain management at American Rivers. “That would really require water conservation in all years and actively recharging our aquifer in wet years, so it can serve as a buffer in dry years.”
“The San Joaquin has lots of problems from dams, levees and water diversions,” said Cain. “It’s had these problems for a long time, but this year, it’s really at a tipping point.”
“The river is so overtapped that it runs completely dry in stretches, threatening water quality, endangering fish and wildlife, creating uncertainty for farmers and leaving communities vulnerable in the face of more frequent and severe droughts,” the report states.
List of Most Endangered Rivers in America 2014:
1. San Joaquin River, California
2. Upper Colorado River, Colorado
3. Middle Mississippi River, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky
4. Gila River, New Mexico
5. San Francisquito Creek, California
6. South Fork Edisto River, South Carolina
7. White River, Colorado
8. White River, Washington
9. Haw River, North Carolina
10. Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, Idaho
The list is not a series of the “worst” or most polluted rivers.
The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.
Three factors govern the rivers’ selections, according to Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers: “One is the significance of the river for human and natural communities,” he says. “The second is the magnitude of the threat for a particular river, while the third is a major decision that the public can help influence in the coming year.”
Colorado Rivers Drying Up, Water Leasing Program to Help
Lesser Prairie Chicken Listed as Threatened, Energy Groups in Five States Worry
Food Prices Will Rise 4%, Meat 5% in 2013 Due To Drought Conditions