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Natural Awakenings

Life Lines: Rio Grande Still on World’s Top 10 Rivers at Risk

Feb 01, 2009 03:00AM

The World Wildlife Fund’s Top 10 Rivers at Risk continue to face widespread degradation, while millions of people depend on them for survival. The Rio Grande, along the U.S.-Mexico border, is on the watch list because the river is severely threatened by water diversions, widespread alteration of the floodplain, dams and pollution.

“The world’s freshwater ecosystems are under siege, and the rivers on this list are the front lines,” says Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “We don’t have to look far to find examples of the freshwater crisis.”

Five of the 10 rivers are in Asia: Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Ganges and Indus. The others are Europe’s Danube, South America’s La Plata, Africa’s Nile-Lake Victoria and Australia’s Murray-Darling.

WWF notes that the Rio Grande is home to a spectacular array of freshwater species and is the lifeblood of the region’s economy, supplying water to fast-growing urban areas and thousands of farms and ranches. Irrigation accounts for 80 percent of all water diversions from the river. In response, WWF has been working to improve irrigation in the Rio Grande Valley and establish more parks and protected areas for wildlife along key stretches of the river.

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