A river is a river. Whether it a great river or just a big stream, it is still in danger from various sources. Most often of course this source is mankind. We tend to mess up nature on a massive scale. It wasn’t all that long ago that the Ohio River actually caught on fire. Let’s think about that for just a moment. A moving body of water, that is right the stuff that we use to put out fires, was so polluted that it caught on fire.
Almost all the great rivers of the world have large populations along their banks. The river itself is the reason that the communities grew up. When you have a population near a body of fresh water, they do damage to it in two different ways. One, they take water from the river for human use. One person drinking from a river may not change much, but if you look at the Mississippi, how many cities are placed along it’s banks? All those cities with all those people take and take and take. Unfortunately they also give back.
Even if it is treated to a “safe” level the water that is returned to the river has been changed. The chemical makeup, even the temperature is different than it was. This will change the way that the ecosystem works. I use the Mississippi as an example because I live less than 15 miles from that great river. The headwaters of it are in Minnesota. Other rivers feed into it as it moves south. If you have fish that flourish in a colder water environment, once it has been through the system of a metropolitan area, the water will be warmer. Bacteria have been added. This could be disastrous for the original cold water fish.
Humans also have a powerful need to eat. They will take everything from a river. If you take out the fish that are of a breeding age, then you don’t have little fish to replace them. This is another link that can be broken in the ecosystem chain. If you disrupt it enough then the system fails and the river dies.
So without a doub, a great river can die. It can happen on its own in nature or it can happen with human intervention. We tend to be like locusts when it comes to that. We take from nature until there is nothing left and then move on. Luckily the great rivers have thus far been able to keep up with us. If we look at the smaller versions though, it is a glimpse into the future.
We have to change the way we treat these great waterways or they will be dead ribbons of water.