San Joaquin River named most endangered

The San Joaquin River was named America's most endangered river by a Washington D.C. environmental organization.

American Rivers listed ten rivers throughout the country that were the most threatened by poor water quality, excessive withdrawals and declining fish and wildlife species.

The San Joaquin River, spanning 366 miles from the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Pacific Ocean, is in the most precarious state, plagued by outdated water management and excessive diversions, according to American Rivers.

Add that to the current drought and the river is left completely dry in some stretches, threatening water quality, endangering fish and wildlife and creating uncertainty for farmers and communities that are vulnerable to water losses.

Years of management for agriculture, hydropower and flood control have also taken a toll on the river, the organization stressed, creating a problem not just for the roughly four million people that live around the watershed, but also for salmon and steelhead populations that are on the brink of extinction.

But it's not too late for the San Joaquin River. American Rivers offered a call to the California State Water Resources Control Board, which is currently developing a plan for management of the river, to increase water flows to the San Joaquin to protect fish, recreation and community access and to support sustainable agriculture.

The organization also urged Congress must oppose all efforts to overturn state and federal water laws designed to protect the environment, which would further dry up the San Joaquin River.

"The San Joaquin River is ground zero for water supply challenges," said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, in a release. "We want a future with a healthy river and sustainable agriculture. This 'Most Endangered River' listing is a call to a cation for all of us to come together around solutions to protect and restore reliable and predictable clean waters applies and a healthy river for future generations. We're all in this together."

The San Joaquin River and its principal tributaries—including the Merced, the Tuolumne and the Stanislaus rivers—irrigate more than two million acres of land, generate more than 3,000 megawatts of hydropower, provide drinking water to more than 4.5 million people and support numerous endangered or declining species.

Other threatened rivers on the list include the Upper Colorado River, the Middle Mississippi River, the Gila River, San Francisquito Creek, the South Fork Edisto River, the White River, the White River, the Haw River and the Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers.