The 10 Most Endangered U.S. Rivers of 2012

The Potomac River  Photo: MV Jantzen/American Rivers

River conservancy American Rivers just released its 27th annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers report, naming the Potomac the most threatened river. This waterway earned the top spot not so much due to pollution levels (it’s much cleaner today than in decades past) but due to its proximity to Congress, which American Rivers says is failing to safeguard waterways across the country.

“There are a number of bills in play that would weaken the Clean Water Act,” says Amy Kober, American Rivers’ senior communications director, “which is ironic, because the Act turns 40 this year.”

Other rivers on the list highlight concerns over hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas, as well as  hydropower development. “Fracking is still a big problem, and that has been a theme on the list for a couple years running,” says Kober. Fracking produces wastewater that contains toxic chemicals, and fracking activities have polluted waterways in some areas. 

While it might seem like hydropower is becoming less of an environmental concern in the U.S.—with the removal of major, outdated hydro projects across the West—the group is watching and fighting a number of newly proposed dams on American rivers.

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