Colorado River Tops Endangered River Report: American Rivers

Sonoran Institute works to ensure flowing rivers, healthy landscapes, and thriving communities in the basin.

On April 19, American Rivers released its annual endangered rivers report with the Colorado River topping its list. Acknowledging prolonged drought’s impact on the river and an outdated river management system, the report calls for “proven, equitable solutions that enhance water security and river health, while building resilience to future climate change.”

With the Colorado River experiencing dramatically reduced flows and additional shortages forecast, all seven basin states and Mexico are grappling with the reality of having to lessen their demands for Colorado River water. At a recent event on the 100th anniversary of the Colorado River Compact, experts were in near unison that all water use sectors will need to do a better job of conserving water in response to reduced flows and to prevent federally mandated cuts in water deliveries.

The Colorado River Basin’s growing cities and towns are no exception. As their demand for water increases, they must do a better job managing their water resources if they expect farmers and ranchers, the largest river water users, to voluntarily agree to use less water. Over the next five years, Sonoran Institute will enable local governments to reduce water demand and secure good quality water supply in sustainable, environmentally sensitive and equitable ways.

Colorado River


At the same time, we must place a priority on maintaining Colorado River flows for wildlife and the region’s recreation and tourism economy upon which so many basin communities depend. Sonoran Institute will be working to ensure the river connects to the sea as part of an ongoing, ambitious effort to restore Colorado River Delta, while encouraging communities to use treated wastewater, stormwater, and agricultural runoff to keep our rivers healthy and flowing.

Lastly, equitable solutions require addressing historic inequities around securing tribal water rights and physical access to their water. Sonoran Institute will do this by participating in ongoing dialogue with tribes and stakeholders, promoting new research findings and policy proposals, and developing tools and resources that enhance tribal capacity around sustainable water management.

Our thanks to American Rivers for highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing the Colorado River. Working together, we can envision “a Colorado River Basin where rivers flow, landscapes are healthy, and all communities thrive.”

Written by John Shepard