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Birds and Water in the Western U.S.
Wednesday July 12, 2017   |
Water is a precious resource in the West—for tens of millions of people as well as some of America's richest diversity of birdlife. But many western water habitats, such as the Colorado River basin and the network of saline lakes, are in trouble from water development, drought, and climate change.

Audubon's new report, Water and Birds in the Arid West: Habitats in Decline, examines the critical habitats that birds like these American Avocet and the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo rely on. By clarifying the relationships among birds, water, and climate change in the region, the report offers recommendations for a sustainable water future for birds and people in the American West.

Water is the most precious resource in the West—for people, birds, and other wildlife. Riparian habitats like the forests and wetlands that line the Colorado River support some of the most abundant and diverse bird communities in the arid West, serving as home to some 400 species. The Colorado River also provides drinking water for more than 36 million people, irrigates 5.5 million acres of farms and ranches, and supports 16 million jobs throughout seven states, with a combined annual economic impact of $1.4 trillion.

But dams, diversions, drought, and water demand along the Colorado River have devastated cottonwood-willow forests and other native riparian habitat that support more than 40 percent of bird species in America's Southwest. Saline lakes—the landlocked saltwater lakes fringed with wetlands that dot the Intermountain West—are beacons for millions of birds crossing an otherwise arid landscape. But as water recedes and exposes toxic dust, not only is habitat lost, but surrounding communities are at higher risk for asthma and other health issues.

In short, precipitous declines in Western water quantity and quality are exacting a high toll on the health, prosperity, and quality of life for rural and urban communities, and putting birds and wildlife at jeopardy.

Read more at: http://www.audubon.org/conservation/western-water?ms=digital-eng-email-ea-x-20170710_arid-west-waters&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20170710_arid-west-waters
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