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The Climate Crisis is also a Water Crisis
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The Climate Crisis is also a Water Crisis


No matter where you live, you’re feeling the impacts of climate change. Chances are you’re feeling the effects of climate change through your rivers and creeks as well as your water supplies.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, as dangerous floods threaten communities, drought puts livelihoods at risk and fish and wildlife are pushed closer to extinction as streams dry up. 

A moose forages among the new growth at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park next to the headwaters of the Colorado River
A moose enjoys the new growth at Rocky Mountain National Park’s entrance, near the Colorado River’s headwaters.

It is time to place freshwater and rivers at the center of climate change discussions.

The August 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has outlined the reality and potential risks of climate change in a clear and concise report. reportthe United Nations Climate Change ConferenceCOP26. Without a doubt, human influence has influenced land characteristics, air quality, and ocean health. The impact of human-caused changes is staggering and is causing extreme weather and climate conditions in every part of the globe. The main focus has been on changes to sea levels, glaciers and forests, as well as the atmosphere. 

Although less well-known, climate impacts on rivers that flow through diverse landscapes and cultures, economies, and habitats are just as important. 

Water is life. Rivers are the veins, arteries, and blood vessels of the earth. All living things depend upon the clean water rivers provide. Two-thirds of the water we drink comes from rivers. They’re vital to our economy, and our food, transportation and energy systems. Rivers weave through our lives in countless ways that may go unnoticed — until disaster demands our attention. We’ve experienced all the following in the U.S in the past year:

  • Floods that destroy property and cause irreparable damage to lives
  • Drought, drought, and aridification are all threats to farms and ranches as well as local economies that rely on river recreation.
  • Wildfires harming downstream water supplies
  • Rising temperatures are threatening ecologically and culturally important fish species, as well as significant reaches of rivers and streams that flow freely.

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These impacts are most detrimental to communities with limited resources and a lack of access reliable water sources. River-related climate effects due to systemic injustice are particularly damaging to communities of color, Latinos, and Indigenous peoples. 

So far, the discussion around rivers and climate has been heard as more of a whisper, where commanding volume is needed – and we are speaking up. We are releasing a response to COP26, the IPCC report and ongoing climate change proposals. Rivers and Climate policy statementIdentifying six strategies that will strengthen communities in the face climate change, advance just, fair solutions that benefit rivers, people, and increase resilience and adaptation to ongoing changing. 

Six strategies to help rivers and people

1. Protect clean water

2. Manage Water for All

3. Restore damaged rivers and reconnect habitats

4. Protect Healthy, Free-Flowing Rivers & Headwaters

5. Hydropower Dam Operations: Reform

6. Ensure Just Access and Equitable Access

These issues are being tackled by frontline leaders from across the country. It is time to come together as a river and clean water movement to ensure decision makers at every level are listening, and making healthy rivers – and all life that depends on them – a top priority.


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