11 Rivers Facing a Danger of Drying Up in America

These 11 rivers in the United States are at risk of drying up very soon.
Christopher McFadden

From the mighty Colorado River to the Gasconade River, here are some of the rivers in the United States that are suffering from high-demand, rising temperatures, and reduced rainfall. For these and a myriad of other issues, these rivers are facing a very real danger of drying up in the future. 


What rivers are at risk of drying up in the U.S.?

So, without further ado, here are some rivers at risk of drying up in the United States. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. The mighty Colorado River might soon dry up

river that may soon dry up colorado
Source: Peter McBride/Smithsonian

The Colorado River is one of the most overused rivers in the world and provides water for 30 million people, according to National Geographic. It has many dams and diversions and runs for around 2,330 km.

The river runs from the high plains of Western U.S. to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Because of the high demand for water for things like agriculture, industry, and municipal use, the river rarely reaches the sea nowadays. 

In 2014, the U.S. and Mexico, in a joint effort, allowed the waters to reach the ocean, and efforts are underway for a more permanent solution. But this will not likely be implemented anytime soon. 

2. The Rio Grande is another river in trouble

rivers that may dry up soon rio grande
Source: gardener41/Flickr

The once-mighty Rio Grande is another river being bled-dry. It is one of the largest rivers in North America and runs for around 2,700 km from southwestern Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico.

In fact, this river marks part of the border between the state of Texas and Mexico. But, despite its name, the river is less impressive today than it used to be.

In recent years it has shown something in the order of one-fifth of its historical flows. For several years in the early-2000s, the river even failed to reach the costs completely. 

Like the Colorado River, excessive damming and diversions and rising local temperatures/reduced rainfall are slowly choking the river. 

3. The Sacramento River is also drying up

rivers that may soon dry up sacramento
Source: cyclotourist/Flickr

Yet another river in the U.S. in danger of being lost is the Sacramento River. Located in California, the river runs from around 382 miles (615 km).

It originates in the Klamath Mountains in the northern part of the state and runs to a common delta with the San Joaquin River at San Francisco Bay. Recent water diversion projects, and rising average temperatures, have taken their toll on the river in recent years.

There has been a marked increase in snowmelt runoff earlier in the year than has historically been the case. This is increasing the chances of reduced streamflow during dry seasons -- which will significantly impact local agriculture and other industries in the future. 

4. The Pecos River is also at risk

rivers that are drying up pecos
Source: Fletchersparadox/Wikimedia Commons

The Pecos River, in New Mexico and Texas, is yet another river at risk of drying up soon. It runs for around 926 miles (1,490 km)  and runs from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Mexico into the eastern part of the state of Texas before emptying into the Rio Grande.

Part of its course is situated in the most drought-prone part of the U.S., with around 1/5th of the river's corridor being classified as being in severe drought in recent years. 

5. The John Day River is also in a spot of bother

river that may dry up john day
Source: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr

The John Day River is another river in the U.S. that is at risk of drying up. Located in the state of Oregon, the river runs for around 284 miles (457 km), 237 km of which is used for recreational purposes. 

The river originates in the Blue Mountains of Central Oregon and empties into the Columbia River at the river's end. Unlike other rivers on this list, it is one of the longest, undammed rivers in the U.S.

Despite this, it has shown worrying declines in water flow over recent years.

6. The North Fork Red River could soon dry up

rivers that may soon dry up north fork
Source: Leaflet/Wikimedia Commons

The North Fork Red River in Texas and Oklahoma is yet another U.S. river that could soon dry up. It runs for around 271 miles (436 km) and runs from the Texas Pandhandle to the Red River along the Texas-Oklahoma border. 

The river is situated in the drought-susceptible lands of the Mississipi River basin and has shown worrying signs of declining water flows over recent years. 

7. The Canadian River is also threatened

rivers that are drying up canadian river
Source: Leaflet/Wikimedia Commons

Located in New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, the Canadian River is another river at risk of drying up. It runs for around 906 miles (1,458 km) between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico before meeting the Arkansas River in the western base of the Boston Mountains.

A combination of historically low rainfall and the explosion of an invasive shrub, the salt cedar, is slowing choking the river.

8. The Arkansas River is also under threat

Speaking of the Arkansas River, it is also one of the most threatened U.S. rivers from drying up. It runs for around 1,460 miles (2,350 km) between the Rocky Mountains before joining the Mississipi.

It has played its part in American history and is also vital for local agriculture and tourism. Like many other rivers in the Mississipi River Basin, it is highly susceptible to drought, which has become worse over recent years. 

It has been estimated that river flow ould drop by as much as 20% by the year 2050, and more by 2100. 

9. The Brazos River is also struggling

rivers drying up brazos
Source: Leaflet/Wikimedia Commons

The Brazos River, located in New Mexico and Texas, is yet another U.S. river in trouble. It runs for around 1,280 miles (2,060 km) and is one of the longest rivers in the United States. 

It has shown some worrying drops in river flow over the last few years. So much so, in fact, that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality appointed a dedicated "watermaster" to help monitor and resolve issues over water rights. 

10. Red River is also having some issues

Red River, located in New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana, is another U.S. river at risk of drying up. It runs for about 1,290 miles (2,076 km) and originates in New Mexico before meeting the Atchafalaya River. 

The river is located in one of the most drought-susceptible lands in the U.S., and parts of it regularly spend a few weeks a year practically bone-dry. Like other rivers in water shortage risk areas of the U.S., access to its waters can be highly contested. 

"In one recent case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Texas did not have the right to obtain water from within Oklahoma state borders under the 1978 Red River Compact, which will likely increase demand for water along the Texas portion of the river." - 247wallst.com

11. Gasconade River is in a little trouble

rivers that may dry up gasconade
Source: henskechristine/Flickr

The Gasconade River in Missouri is another river in the United States that is at risk of drying up in the near future. The river runs for around 250 miles (402 km), rises in the Ozark Mountains, and flows northeast before emptying into the Missouri River. 

The river has shown extreme flooding in recent years, with four of the five worst events on record in the last decade alone. But, more worryingly, it has shown below-average streamflow during dry seasons thanks to growing average temperatures for the region since the late-1960s. 

More serious future declines in water levels have been predicted. 

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