Wild, Free Waterways Disappearing in the West

Water may be crucial for life in the West, but Westerners in 11 states have manipulated and trashed rivers to such an extent that half are now impaired – an impact measured as especially severe in Colorado.

“Disappearing Rivers,” an analysis to be unveiled Wednesday in Washington, D.C., identifies the culprits as developers who build along waterways; utility operators who divert water to generate power; cities and irrigators who disrupt natural flows using dams; and industries, such as mining, that are allowed to pollute streams.

The researchers used satellite imagery, water-flow data and location information from a federal Bureau of Land Management database to conduct what they billed as an unprecedented comprehensive snapshot of the health of Western rivers. As population growth has accelerated across the arid and semi-arid West, rivers from headwaters in the high Rocky Mountains to oceans have faced rising pressure as people demand more – water for cities, electricity and crops, land near water for development and commerce, and recreational solace.

Among the 11 Western states, Colorado had the third-most miles of waterways measured as altered, following Utah and New Mexico, the analysis found. The researchers determined that 97 percent of major rivers, 61 percent of smaller waterways and 51 percent of headwaters streams have been altered.

LINK (via: Denver Post)

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