The San Joaquin River's problems run pretty deep, so much so that it's the most endangered in the country, according to the American Rivers conservation group. The group says that even before California's drought hit, the state's second-longest river had "lots of problems from dams, levees, and water diversions" and has now reached a "tipping point" where better water management is urgently needed and tough decisions need to be made, Scientific American reports.
The river and its delta are a crucial fish habitat, and a source of drinking water for 23 million Californians, but it is "really compromised by the low quality and quantity," the group says. Much of the water is used for irrigation by farmers upstream, and the group says it is calling for "better water management regimes so that there is enough water for farms and fish." Some 60 miles of the river have been periodically dry for decades, and the drought has put restoration projects on hold, reports the Fresno Bee. Other rivers on American Rivers' endangered list include the Upper Colorado River and New Mexico's Gila River. LiveScience, which notes that 65% of the country's drinking water comes compliments of rivers, has the top 10. (Read more San Joaquin River stories.)