Since 1986, the Washington, D.C. conservation group American Rivers has published a list of the ten dirtiest rivers in the country as a way to encourage conservation.
Across the country, access to clean water is becoming one of the most vital environmental concerns—see the powerful new documentary Last Call at the Oasis. Key to being able to provide potable drinking water is keeping our rivers and streams clean since 65 percent of what comes from our taps comes straight from them. The 2012 list was assembled by AR in conjunction with local river conservationists, with the goal of saving rivers.
(Photo: Workbook Group/Getty Images)
#1 - Potomac River (MD, VA, PA, WV, DC)
Providing drinking water to more than five million people, the Potomac—aka the ‘Nation’s River’—is threatened by agricultural and urban pollution that will only get worse if Congress rolls back national clean-water protections.
#2 - Green River (WY, UT, CO)
The largest tributary of the Colorado River, the Green River is teetering on the precipice of disaster because of a proposal to pump massive volumes into a 500-mile pipeline across Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range. This plan threatens world-class recreation, rural economies, critical fish habitats, and the water supply for the lower Colorado River Basin.
#3 - Chattahoochee River (GA)
Recently designated as America’s first National Water Trail, the Chattahoochee River is under siege, its flowing water in demand by Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Each state’s water grab includes new dams and reservoirs, which would destroy recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat.
The nation’s longest river is home to a long list of problems, namely outdated flood management for the communities that line its banks. In order to improve public safety for those living along the Missouri River, decision makers must prioritize using floodplains and wetlands to absorb and store flood waters.
(Photo: Adam Jones/Getty Images)
#5 - Hoback River (WY)
Toxic pollution from proposed natural gas development threatens the trout fishery and sport paddling of the majestic Hoback River.
(Photo: Richard Nunes)
#6 - Grand River (OH)
Threatened by potential pollution from natural gas development, Ohio’s Grand River is a haven for rare birds and other wildlife and boasts the best water quality of any stream flowing into Lake Erie.
#7 - South Fork Skykomish River (WA)
The Skykomish is one of Washington’s most popular rivers for fishing, paddling, and scenic beauty. However, a proposed hydropower dam would destroy the wild character of the river’s South Fork, and reduce two spectacular waterfalls to a trickle.
#8 - Crystal River (CO)
One of the last remaining free-flowing streams in Colorado, the Crystal River is threatened by two main irritants: hydropower dams and reservoirs.
#9 - Coal River (WV)
Threatened by coal mining, which has already poisoned or obliterated miles of streams in the river’s basin, the Coal River is a main source of drinking water for the communities flanking its banks.
#10 - Kansas River (KS)
The Kansas River provides drinking water for 600,000 people and is the state’s most popular river for canoeing, kayaking, and other recreation. However, the river is threatened by sand and gravel dredging, which would cause severe harm to clean water, wildlife, and recreation opportunities.