The Stream, March 19, 2021: More U.S. Rivers Are Losing Water Than Previously Realized


  • New research finds two out of three rivers in the United States are losing water.
  • Over 150,000 customers for a Philadelphia water utility are in water debt.
  • Nevada lawmakers are considering proposals that could protect sacred trees and stop a pipeline from diverting water from rural to urban areas.
  • A new initiative from a Canadian non-profit will monitor the Columbia River watershed.

A proposed dam in a Colorado creek is creating tension between rural communities and cities that want more water.

“Colorado Springs and Aurora got the water right in 1952. We just don’t think this is the place to take it. There are options downstream.” – Jerry Mallett, the founder of Colorado Headwaters. Colorado Public Radio reports that tensions are rising between community leaders and two Colorado cities over a proposal to build a dam in Whitney Creek, which could reduce the amount of water that ends up in the Colorado River. The cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs want to bring more water from the West Slope to their growing cities by damming Whitney Creek and creating a reservoir to supply water to thousands of new homes. Locals in West Slope communities see water as a crucial part of their economies and are fighting for it to stay put.


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New Research Indicates Widespread River Water Loss Throughout United States

New research indicates that more rivers throughout the United States may be leaking water into the ground than previously realized, ScienceDaily reports. The study found that more than two out of three rivers in the United States are losing water, particularly in arid regions, along flat topography, and in areas with extensive groundwater pumping. Debra Perrone, an assistant professor at UC Santa Barbara and co-author of the study, said the research underscores the importance of considering groundwater and surface water jointly, rather than separately.



Nearly 154,000 Philadelphia Water Department customers have fallen behind on water utility bills as the department seeks a 17.6 percent rate increase over two years, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. A moratorium on water shutoffs was extended until April of next year. Without it, nearly 70,000 customers could have faced loss of water service.

In context: Millions of Americans Are in Water Debt


Nevada lawmakers considered two proposals on Monday to protect groves of swamp cedar as a controversial plan to pipe groundwater from rural Nevada to Las Vegas loomed, the Associated Press reports. The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plans for the pipeline spurred lawsuits and resistance from a coalition concerned about preserving groundwater that sustains the swamp cedars. One new proposal would make it illegal for anyone to destroy the trees without a state permit. The other is a resolution to lobby the U.S. Congress to protect swamp cedars by reclassifying a swath within an existing National Heritage Area in Nevada’s Spring Valley.


Living Lakes Canada, a nonprofit aimed at protecting Canadian watersheds, received a $1 million grant to conduct water monitoring and water-related restoration work in the Columbia River basin, Castlegar News reports. Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities will collaborate to determine water monitoring needs and gather data that will build climate resilience throughout the region.

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