Lower Colorado – America’s “most endangered river”

The environmental group American Rivers today declared the Lower Colorado River America’s “most endangered river“.

The web page announcing this is fascinating. The pictures are not of iconic desert canyons and pristine rivers. They are of farmers. Growing food.

photo by Amy Martin, courtesy American Rivers

A reminder of the multiplicity of values with which we embrace the importance of rivers.


  1. When I worked at the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, American Rivers designated the Rio Grande in New Mexico “America’s most endangered river.” Puzzled, I called to speak with the Director of American Rivers. We had a pleasant conversation until I asked to see the data upon which the designation was based. Long pause. I pressed. Another long pause, lots of beating around that elusive bush. I pressed further. Eventually, she revealed that the designation came about after lobbying by Rio Grande Restoration, an NGO. American Rivers could cite no data to support the designation. There was, at the time, a suit in Federal court over management of the river for endangered species.

  2. Hi Sterling –

    I can’t speak to the Rio Grande listing (well before my time here at American Rivers) but I can outline the criteria we use to determine our Most Endangered Rivers report. I can tell you, however, that the process is (at least now) much more rigorous than what you describe in your previous experience…just so you are aware.

    The report highlights ten rivers whose fate will be decided in the coming year, and encourages decision-makers to do the right thing for the rivers and the communities they support. The report is not a list of the nation’s “worst” or most polluted rivers, but rather it highlights rivers at a crossroads, or tipping point.

    American Rivers reviews nominations from river groups and citizens across the country. Rivers are selected based upon the following criteria:

    The river is of regional or national significance to people and wildlife
    The river and communities that depend on it are under significant threat, espe­cially in light of a changing climate
    Each river on the list will face major decision in the coming year that the public can help influ­ence

    Thank you for your comment!


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