The rivers are drying up, but it's not too late to help.  Here's where to start |  CNN

The rivers are drying up, but it’s not too late to help. Here’s where to start | CNN


The Mississippi River was so low in October that you could walk to an island that should only be accessible by boat.

This summer, the Danube that runs through much of central Europe became so shallow that you could see sunken WWII warships at the bottom.

Water levels in Lake Mead have dropped so much that the human remains of victims who disappeared decades ago have appeared. The Colorado River historically filled Lake Mead, but the nonprofit group American Rivers now lists this declining tributary as “America’s most endangered river.”

Sinjin Eberle of American Rivers says there are reports that Colorado is “19% smaller than it was in the year 2000.”

From the Colorado River to the Yangtze River in China, the world has experienced a dramatic drying up this year due to divergent waters and extreme weather caused by climate change.

“Severe drought and lack of rain in many parts of the world and heat waves have exacerbated this problem,” says Josh Klemm of International Rivers. “But a hidden problem is that most of the world’s (long) rivers are somehow choked by large dams.”

These are some of the factors that lead to the drying up of riverbeds and the fear that a struggle for access to water will occur sooner rather than later in some communities. So what can be done and what can you do about it?

Organizations like American Rivers and International Rivers protect rivers, improve access to water, and empower others to help keep rivers flowing.

But to get results, everyone has to do their part.

The Mississippi River is experiencing record high water levels.

Saving and protecting our water is a popular issue, but getting people to use less water is difficult. For most people, seeing is believing, which is why one of the world’s top tourist destinations has become the focal point of this topic: the Grand Canyon.

“It’s one of the seven wonders of the world,” says Eberle. “One of the most iconic landscapes on the planet and tackling the idea that the river that helped create this place is hopefully a trickle would be a wake-up call.”

Eberle doesn’t think the Colorado River will dry up completely, but if changes aren’t made, one day it could be Colorado Creek instead of the river.

At present, many people depend on the water from this river. According to American Rivers, it provides drinking water to one in ten Americans. Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Denver are just a few of the cities that dry up the Colorado River before it reaches the Gulf of California.

Simply put, water restrictions need to get stricter.

“Every state (must) accept deep reductions in water use. Everyone is going to have to feel the pain. Everyone, every state, every sector needs to figure out how to do more with less water,” says Amy Souers Kober of American Rivers, “Everybody keep working together. Keep talking. Keep trying to find solutions.”

These organizations also ensure that all voices are heard, ensuring that indigenous communities and small communities are not left behind. One of the ways they try to improve access to water for all is to remove dams and oppose dam construction around the world.

The dry bed of the Danube branch

Along the Kunene River on the Namibia-Angola border in Africa, local groups are protesting the construction of a dam that could cut them off from food and water.

“There are many players: (from) the indigenous community level to large organizations,” Siziwe Mota, director of the Africa program at International Rivers, told CNN. “And all of these efforts are truly essential to succeed in building resilience to climate change – and ensuring food security for the millions of people around the world whose livelihoods and food sources are fed by rivers.”

In the United States, dams on the Klamath River, which runs through Oregon and California, will begin to be removed in 2023.

“The Klamath River was once one of the largest salmon-producing rivers on the West Coast. It has been blocked by four dams for a hundred years. The salmon have been devastated, but even more devastating has been the impact on the indigenous people of the river,” Kober says. “It’s going to revitalize and reconnect those people.”

Removing the dams will give more people access to water and allow the river to return to its natural state.

A growing trend internationally is the fight for the legal rights of rivers as living beings. In New Zealand, the Whanganui River has been granted corporate rights, and other countries like Bangladesh and India have taken similar steps.

There is even a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Rivers that you can sign to help rivers around the world.

The greatest impacts, however, result from local action.

According to Eberle, the most important way to help our waters is something that can be done daily.

“The best thing (people) can do to help the river or rivers, which they can do every day, is to eat more local food and keep their food choices more local-oriented.”

Seeking more locally grown foods can help build better relationships between farmers, consumers and their communities.

“We help farmers and cities be more efficient with the water they use,” says Kober. “There is a lot we can do to strengthen the system so that there is no wastage of water.”

Getting politically involved and asking leaders to make smart decisions about water management is an important step. Eberle notes that city councils and local leaders are good places to start.

But when voting at any level, look for candidates who also want to take action on water and infrastructure sustainability.

Kober says American Rivers’ work at the national level focuses on funding infrastructure to ensure clean drinking water for all communities, citing two US cities where residents have faced an unsafe supply.

“So we’ll never have another Flint, Michigan or Jackson, Mississippi.”

The dry bed of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China.

In addition to donating money, volunteering with local chapters of organizations and regional water guardians is not only a great way to get involved, but as Josh Klemm of International Rivers says, “a great way to get an overview”. Having first-hand knowledge of the regional issues around you, and knowing that they’re playing out on a larger scale, too, can help you when it’s time to decide which candidate to vote for — and even what’s for dinner. .

Overall, understanding that the problem is bigger than a river and bigger than the Grand Canyon is key to ensuring everyone has access to clean water.

“It appears from many readings that the climate, warming is accelerating; it could get worse,” says Eberle. “Yet the population continues to grow, and those two things combined, we’re going to have to find ways to make all of those systems work together somehow.

Klemm agrees it’s “hard to be super optimistic”, but adds “we’ve seen nature rebound in really amazing ways that can ultimately help communities adapt to climate change. Unfortunately, you often need to consider impacts before you can actually restore rivers to their natural state. ”

Watching the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon slowly evaporate with images of rivers drying up around the world is a sensation. Time will tell if this provokes action.

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