Colorado River Is Nation’s Most Endangered, Says Group

The Colorado River is the country’s most endangered river, announced enviro group American Rivers today in its annual assessment of U.S. waterways. The threats come from three sources of pollution along the river’s route. An abandoned mine just outside Moab, Utah, features a 12-million-ton pile of uranium tailings, which leaches radioactive waste into the groundwater and later — at the rate of 110,000 gallons a day — into the river. Lake Havasu City, Ariz., just beneath the Hoover Dam, boasts the nation’s highest concentration of septic tanks; some 25,000 of the poopy menaces seep nitrate into the groundwater and then, you guessed it, into the river. Last but not least, a defunct missile-fuel plant site in Henderson, Nev., releases 400 pounds of toxic ammonia perchlorate into Lake Mead every day, from whence it drains … wait for it … into the river. The Colorado is a primary water source for some 30 million people in the southwestern U.S., a region where recent drought conditions have led to fierce water wars. But, says Tucson Water Director David Modeer, “The quality issues are, at this time, more of an immediate threat than the quantity issue.”