Rivers and lakes are the most degraded ecosystems in the world. Can we save them?
We rely on fresh water for drinking, food, and sanitation, and they’re in trouble. But freshwater issues are becoming a higher priority for conservationists.
When Grand Canyon National Park was established a century ago, the Colorado River running through it was treated as an afterthought. In the decades following, states scrambled to squeeze every drop of water out of the Colorado for farming and drinking, with a cascade of huge dams constructed along its course.
Native fish like suckers and chubs, found nowhere else in the world, were replaced with invasive catfish and bass that were more attractive for anglers. In time, the mighty river that had once carved out one of America’s most iconic landscapes was reduced to a trickle, no longer able to fulfill its destiny of reaching the sea.
What happened to the Colorado is a powerful example of a river’s decline, but