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WWF Releases List of World's Top 10 Rivers at Risk; 'Freshwater Ecosystems are Under Seige'

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Rio Grande is among the world's top ten rivers at risk, according to a report by the same name released today by World Wildlife Fund. The WWF report, World's Top 10 Rivers at Risk, names the world's rivers that are facing widespread degradation while millions of people depend on them for survival.

The Rio Grande (Rio Bravo in Mexico), along the U.S.-Mexico border, made the Top 10 list because the river is severely threatened by water diversions, widespread alteration of the floodplain, dams and pollution.

"The world's freshwater ecosystems are under siege, and the rivers in this report are the front lines," says Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. "We don't have to look far to find examples of the freshwater crisis. The Rio Grande basin is in our own backyard and over-extraction and drought are draining it dry, endangering a unique desert river ecosystem and potentially undermining the economic growth of communities along the U.S./Mexico border."

Five of the ten rivers listed in the report are in Asia: Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Ganges and Indus. Europe's Danube, South Americas' La Plata, Africa's Nile-Lake Victoria and Australia's Murray-Darling also make the list.

Although the Rio Grande and its tributaries run through the arid Chihuahuan Desert it is home to a spectacular array of freshwater species. The river is also the lifeblood of the region's economy, providing water to some of the fastest-growing urban areas in the country and thousands of farms and ranches. Irrigation accounts for more than 80 percent of all water diversions from the river.

In response, WWF is working to improve irrigation in the Rio Grande valley so that water can remain in the river for the benefit of fish and other wildlife, and farmers and ranchers can secure a reliable supply of water. WWF is also working to establish more parks and protected areas along the most important stretches of the river for wildlife.

"The Rio Grande is a treasure for all Americans and Mexicans as well as an economic resource of incalculable value," said Jennifer Montoya, U.S. director of WWF's Chihuahuan Desert Program. "This report shows how the U.S. is as vulnerable as anywhere else to the freshwater crisis that is affecting the entire world."

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