A recent study claims that the world’s rivers are in crisis, threatened by pollutants and development. C.J. Vorosmarty, et al, “Global Threats to Human Water Security and River Biodiversity,” Nature, Vol. 467 (September 30, 2010). The study inventories worldwide threats to rivers, including pollution, dams, agricultural runoff, loss of wetlands, and invasive species. The authors conclude that 80 percent of the world’s population lives in regions where the fate of fresh water and plant and animal species is in doubt.

Despite years of environmental protection, they claim that rivers in Western Europe and the United States remain seriously jeopardized and recommend passage of laws and regulations that treat underlying problems rather than symptoms, such as strict building controls in flood-prone areas rather than the construction of dams to hold back floodwaters.