Rivers, streams, springs, swamps, lakes and deepwater aquifers are all sources of the fresh water we need to survive. Besides being essential to humans for drinking and growing food , water is vital for recreation and for daily activities like brushing our teeth and washing our clothes.
Of course the fresh water we rely on is also essential to an amazing array of animals and plants: turtles, fish, dragonflies, frogs, crayfish, orchids, otters and countless others — from the top to the bottom of the food web.
Simply put, water is life.
Though no major American river has recently caught on fire due to pollution — as Ohio's Cuyahoga famously did in 1969, before the passage of the Clean Water Act — America's fresh waters face an incessant, increasing barrage of threats:
There's not enough surface water to go around, and what water there is gets overallocated.
Faced with these threats, and the fact that only 2.5 percent of our planet's water is fresh (and most of that locked up in glaciers), the protection of this life-giving resource couldn't be more urgent.
FRESHWATER ACTIONS BY THE CENTER ACROSS THE COUNTRY
The Center is working — and has been for decades — to safeguard fresh water for people, plants and animals. We have a vision of healthy waterways that are safe for drinking and swimming and provide high-quality habitat for the native food web that, in turn, keeps those waters in balance. Our vision includes thoughtful human communities committed to quality of life, conservation, and a smart use of water that leaves enough in waterways for wildlife to survive and thrive.
In the Southwest we're fighting to preserve special places like Fossil Creek, the San Pedro and Verde rivers, the springs and seeps of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and the Gila River in New Mexico — while also working to save endangered species dependent on desert rivers, including the southwestern willow flycatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo, Chiricahua leopard frog and spikedace and loach minnow fish. We're working to safeguard the Grand Canyon from uranium mining, as well as opposing the proposed Rosemont Mine, an open-pit copper mine that would dewater Cienega Creek (an important refuge for many endangered species) and destroy aquatic habitats in the Santa Rita Mountains in Arizona. We're also campaigning to protect Virgin River fish in Utah, which are threatened with extinction due to wasteful residential and agriculture overuse.
In California the Center is at the forefront of our nation's sweeping, coast-to-coast movement against fracking, which threatens groundwater with contamination and loss through excessive withdrawal. We're also working to protect the San Francisco–San Joaquin Bay Delta, challenging efforts to privatize the State Water Project, and opposing the proposed “twin tunnels” that would severely dewater the Delta and send dozens of aquatic species spiraling closer to extinction. The Center is fighting throughout the state to keep water flowing in rivers up and down California — including the Big Sur, Santa Clara and Santa Ana — to protect these rivers' important ecosystems . We're also actively opposing several groundwater mining projects in the Mojave Desert that would pump ecologically important groundwater to fuel unsustainable exurban sprawl in Southern California.
Farther north, in the Pacific Northwest, we're working to protect salmon streams from silt pollution caused by logging and campaigning to keep coal- export barges off the Columbia River.
In Nevada we're opposing the construction of a massive pipeline to Las Vegas that could dry up more than 300 springs in the Great Basin, jeopardizing small-town life, springsnails and other wildlife.
In Texas we've gained Endangered Species Act protection for the Austin blind salamander, Jollyville Plateau salamander and other unique, highly sensitive cave-dwelling animals seriously threatened by groundwater pumping.
In the Southeast, a global center for freshwater diversity — and, sadly, freshwater species extinction — we're working to protect more than 400 aquatic species, including amphibians and reptiles, mussels and crayfish, and wetland birds like the black rail and Florida sandhill crane. We're also working to end mountaintop-removal coal mining, which buries streams forever under tons of toxic mining waste and dirt. We've successfully campaigned for greater protections for southern and midwestern freshwater turtles and saved numerous Southeast species from the very brink of extinction, including the spring pygmy sunfish and dusky gopher frog.
The Center believes people must do a better job of keeping our waterways clean and sharing them with other species — or we risk erasing great beauty and unraveling ecological relationships that have been in play for eons. Above all, water is the source of all life: By protecting our streams and rivers and the wildlife that depend on them, we're also protecting ourselves.
MAJOR MILESTONES IN THE CENTER'S EFFORTS TO PROTECT FRESHWATER SPECIES
Water in the West
Water in the Rocky Mountains
Water in the Southeast