The water resources of the United States are under siege. They must fight the detrimental effects of climate change and the stress that extreme weather events place on them. They must also endure the ravages of pollution in its many forms. The combined effects have pushed many to the point where they have become endangered.
Identifying the Vulnerable
American Rivers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the nation’s rivers and streams, identified the top 10 endangered rivers in the United States. The list includes:
- Potomac River
- Green River
- Chattahoochee River
- Missouri River
- Hoback River
- Grand River
- Skykomish River
- Crystal River
- Coal River
- Kansas River
These waterways face a myriad of threats, from nonpoint source pollution to dams to natural gas systems. However, the problems are not confined to streams and rivers.
Lakes also experience similar threats. Runoff, for example, was the main source of pollution for 18 percent of America’s lakes. The stress of the surface water sources can have human health implications as well as negative economic impacts from lost tourism dollars.</p>
Finding the Threats
Part of the difficulty of restoring water resources is identifying the culprit. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agricultural runoff is the primary source of water pollution. Knowing the source is only part of the solution.
For example, the Minnesota River contributes about 85 percent of the sediment load to Lake Pepin, a downstream widening of the Mississippi River. The Upper Midwest also adds to the pollution burden farther downstream at the Dead Zone on the Gulf of Mexico.
This means that protection and restoration of waterways and lakes requires regional solutions that encompass entire watersheds. It also necessitates the need for increasing awareness in individuals and industry of the impacts they cause downstream. It’s easy to forget that what is dumped in the river upstream impacts the waterway downstream, with the compounded effect of all the contributors along the way.
As an individual, it behooves you to take action and reduce your negative impact on the nation’s waterways. This means refraining from dumping any contaminants into the water as well as down your drain. As the EPA so eloquently puts it, “You Dump It, You Drink It.” The water you pollute can end up being the water you drink.