An Endangered River Runs Through It

The stretch of the Colorado River that winds through the Grand Canyon faces a triple threat of manmade woes.

April 11, 2015

The Colorado River spent millions of years carving out the Grand Canyon, but we humans have a talent for mucking things up faster than you can say “anthropogenic.” Every year, the conservation organization American Rivers releases a list of the 10 most endangered rivers in the country, based on the magnitude of immediate threats. And for 2015, the 277-mile stretch of the Colorado River contained within the canyon’s walls takes the number one slot. (The Colorado is no stranger to hard times…other parts of the river made the list in 2014, 2013, 2010, and 2004.)

Three major projects are slated to get underway this year, including a plan to build a two-million-square-foot development on the canyon’s East Rim, a proposal to reopen an inactive uranium mine, and the commercial expansion of the nearby town of Tuyasan. The trio threaten to suck groundwater from the aquifer, introduce pollution, and alter the magnificent landscape.

Maybe it’s time to remember what T.R. said about the Grand Canyon: “Leave it as it is…the ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” 

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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