New Mexico's Rivers Named Most Endangered in U.S. After Supreme Court Ruling

New Mexico's rivers, including the Rio Grande, are the most endangered in the US due to a Supreme Court ruling that stripped federal protections, jeopardizing water resources and communities. State action is critical to safeguard these vital waterways.

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Hadeel Hashem
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New Mexico's Rivers Named Most Endangered in U.S. After Supreme Court Ruling

New Mexico's Rivers Named Most Endangered in U.S. After Supreme Court Ruling

New Mexico's rivers, including the Rio Grande, Gila, San Juan, and Pecos, have been named the most endangered waterways in the United States for 2024 by the nonprofit group American Rivers. The designation comes after a 2023 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA that left over 90% of the state's surface waters vulnerable to pollution and harmful development, stripping them of federal Clean Water Act protections.

The ruling found that only "relatively permanent" streams and wetlands with a "continuous surface connection" are subject to federal safeguards, dramatically reducing protections for waterways nationwide. New Mexico has been the most severely impacted, with approximately 96% of its streams and rivers losing federal oversight. This has opened the door to potentially devastating pollution and habitat damage, threatening vital water resources and downstream impacts to major rivers like the Rio Grande.

Why this matters: The loss of federal protections jeopardizes New Mexico's water-dependent agriculture, economy, cultural traditions, and the health of its communities. The state's rivers and streams are vital for drinking water, food production, and sustaining unique ecosystems. Strong action is needed to ensure these waterways remain clean and protected for current and future generations.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, New Mexico lawmakers have introduced legislation to safeguard the newly vulnerable rivers, streams, and lakes. The state has also appropriated $7.6 million to improve water monitoring and establish a permitting program. However, advocates stress that robust public support and additional funding will be critical to fully protecting New Mexico's waters in the absence of federal oversight.

"New Mexico's rivers and streams are the lifeblood of our state's economy, environment, cultural heritage, and way of life," said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild, in a statement responding to the most endangered rivers listing. "We are at a critical moment where our actions will determine the health and future of these vital waterways. It is imperative that our leaders step up to strengthen safeguards and ensure our rivers remain clean and protected for generations to come."

Key Takeaways

  • New Mexico's rivers named most endangered in U.S. for 2024.
  • Supreme Court ruling stripped federal protections for 96% of state's streams.
  • Threatens water resources, agriculture, economy, and ecosystems.
  • NM lawmakers introduced legislation to safeguard vulnerable waterways.
  • Robust public support and funding needed to protect state's waters.