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America's 10 Most Endangered Rivers and Why They Are Threatened

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Lake Mead, which stores Colorado River water, shows a bath tub ring from low water levels. Photo credit: Bureau of Reclamation

Conservation group American Rivers released its annual "Most Endangered Rivers" list on Tuesday, highlighting how 2017 is a "critical year for rivers and clean water."


In the announcement of this year's top 10, the non-profit noted how the Trump administration's proposed budget cuts pose a threat to rivers and communities nationwide.

"President Trump has abandoned critical river protections including the Clean Water Rule, leaving small streams and wetlands—sources of drinking water for one in three Americans—vulnerable to harmful development and pollution," the organization stated.

According to the list, the Lower Colorado River—which runs through Arizona, Nevada and California—is the country's most endangered river.

Matt Rice, Colorado Basin director for American Rivers, told USA Today that "the Lower Colorado is the lifeblood of the region and grows food for Americans nationwide, but the river is at a breaking point."

The river provides drinking water for 30 million Americans, including those who live in major cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix, and helps grow 90 percent of the nation's winter vegetables.

Its main threats are water demand outstripping supply and climate change.

"Water is one of the most crucial conservation issues of our time," said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, in a statement. "The rivers Americans depend on for drinking water, jobs, food and quality of life are under attack from the Trump administration's rollbacks and proposed budget cuts."

"Americans must speak up and let their elected officials know that healthy rivers are essential to our families, our communities and our future," he continued. "We must take care of the rivers that take care of us."

The annual list was first created in 1984. The rivers are selected based upon the following criteria: A major decision (that the public can help influence) in the coming year on the proposed action; The significance of the river to human and natural communities; The magnitude of the threat to the river and associated communities, especially in light of a changing climate.

Here are America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2017 (via National Geographic):

1. Lower Colorado River, Arizona, California, Nevada

Threat: Water demand and climate change.

2. Bear River, California

Threat: new dam

3. South Fork Skykomish, Washington

Threat: new hydropower project

4. Mobile Bay Rivers, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi

Threat: poor water management

5. Rappahannock River, Virginia

Threat: fracking

6. Green-Toutle River, Washington

Threat: new mine

7. Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers, North Carolina

Threat: pollution from hog and chicken farms

8. Middle Fork Flathead River, Montana

Threat: oil transport by rail

9. Buffalo National River, Arkansas

Threat: pollution from massive hog farm

10: Menominee River, Michigan, Wisconsin

Threat: open pit sulfide mining

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