Western Water

Audubon's work to protect people and birds in the arid West.

Water is the most important resource in the arid West—for people, birds, and other wildlife. But precipitous declines of available water put the social, economic and environmental vitality of America’s West in jeopardy, and threaten to further exacerbate the inequities that already exist in western water. Birds tell us there are essential river and lake habitats throughout the West—these include the Colorado River, Great Salt Lake and dozens of other saline lakes, the Rio Grande, tributaries, wetlands, and groundwater connections to essential waterways.

Riverside habitats like the forests and wetlands that line the Colorado River support some of the country’s most abundant and diverse bird communities, serving as home to some 400 species. The Colorado also provides drinking water to more than 40 million people, irrigates 5.5 million acres of farms and ranches, and supports 16 million jobs and our thriving economies in the West. But a 20-year climate change-induced megadrought has put this essential resource at risk.

Saline lakes—the landlocked saltwater lakes with incredible wetlands across the West—are beacons for millions of birds crossing an otherwise arid landscape. But as water recedes (due to drought, water diversions, and climate change) and exposes toxic dust, not only is habitat lost, but surrounding communities—like the one near the Salton Sea—are at higher risk for asthma and other health issues. Great Salt Lake, the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, is shrinking rapidly, threatening the health of people and survival of millions of migratory birds.

Audubon’s Western Water team, with dedicated staff in western states and Washington D.C., is working to align habitat protection and restoration with improved water supplies for communities that also help to address historic injustices. These include disproportionate health impacts associated with water issues at the Salton Sea in California, desiccation of the Colorado River Delta ecosystem in Mexico, and lack of water infrastructure and access to drinking water in many tribal communities. With drought conditions persisting into a third decade and climate change increasingly impacting water supplies and habitat in the West, the urgency for inclusive and equitable provisions are essential to long-lasting water solutions. Audubon will continue to advocate for policies, funding, and on-the-ground actions to protect and restore healthy rivers and lakes, as well as the wildlife, habitats, and people who depend on them.

Audubon envisions a livable and equitable future in the West, particularly in the face of climate change. We strive for rivers, wetlands, and lakes to be resilient, sustain habitat, and support water reliability for birds and people.

Western Water News

Our Western Water Staff

Karyn Stockdale

Karyn Stockdale

Western Water Initiative Senior Director

Jennifer Pitt

Jennifer Pitt

Colorado River Program Director

Marcelle Shoop

Marcelle Shoop

Saline Lakes Program Director

Joey Kahn

Joey Kahn

Western Water Communications Manager

Julie Hill-Gabriel

Julie Hill-Gabriel

Vice President, Water Conservation

Birds That Depend on Water Resources in the Arid West

 



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