Most Endangered Rivers

To read the headlines one would think that oil is the world’s most important resource. Everything revolves around oil production and prices – the cost of food, the value of the dollar and the prevalence of war are all intertwined with oil. Our lives have become too dependent on the continuing flow of black gold. Unfortunately, this disproportionate focus on oil has overshadowed the devastating state of the one resource that we cannot live without – water.

In developed countries we take our fresh, clean water for granted. We always expect the water to flow when we turn on the tap. We spend little time considering how important our rivers are to our existence. And this lack of consideration has led to the neglect and destruction of our waterways, the impact of which is much more far reaching than most of us can imagine.

American Rivers recently released their annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers Report of 2011 and as the title suggests, the news is not good. The report notes that 65 per cent of drinking water in the U.S. comes from rivers and streams, but that many are too polluted to use for this purpose. The ten most endangered waterways include Susquehanna River, Bristol Bay Riverways, Roanoke River, Chicago River, Yuba River, Green River, Hoback River, Black Warrior River, St. Croix River, and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The Mississippi River received Special Mention. These waterways criss-cross the country from Washington State to Maryland, and from Wisconsin to Alabama. Six of the rivers are threatened by mining activities or natural gas extraction and clean water along with returning salmon runs and healthy wildlife are what’s in jeopardy.

damThings are just as bad in Canada. The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC also released their Most Endangered Rivers List for 2011, and they list 12 endangered rivers in BC alone. The most common threats to BC rivers are development and hydro electricity dams.

The messages to be taken from both these reports are that first we must recognize the importance of our rivers and streams, and then we must do more to protect them for future generations. If more is not done sooner rather than later, water could very well start playing the same role in the headlines that oil does now.

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Alison Wheatley

Alison Wheatley

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