Colorado River: new deals, old tensions

Lake Mead’s water level
Credit: Research Gate

Colorado River: Promise and Peril  (start time: 6:28)  For more than two decades the Colorado River has been shrinking, afflicted by climate change-induced drought, population growth, and water politics. Some 40 million people living in seven states, and 30 tribes, depend on the river.  The Upper Basin — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico– have been at odds with Lower Basin states – California, Nevada and Arizona — over who should do more to cut back on water use.  Meanwhile, here in Colorado, cities and towns on the Front Range have been clashing with those on the Western Slope over water from the river. After all, Front Range cities get almost half of their water from the Western Slope, through transmountain diversions. In this week’s show, host Susan Moran interviews two journalists who have been covering water issues in the West.  They recently produced a feature on a surprising new water-rights purchase that could ease west-vs-east tensions, while giving endangered fish a leg up.   Alex Hager is a reporter covering the Colorado River Basin for  KUNC and many NPR network stations. Luke Runyon is co-director of The Water Desk, an initiative of the Center for Environmental Journalism at CU Boulder. Previously he was managing editor and a reporter at KUNC.

Host/Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Sam Fuqua
Headline contributors: Joel Parker, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Colorado River Basin Crisis

Lake Mead’s “bathtub ring” (July 2022)
Photo credit: Tom Yulsman

This week on How On Earth:
Colorado River Basin Crisis (start time: 5:31–scroll down for arrow)
The Colorado River is the life blood for about 40 million inhabitants. And it’s in dire straights. The river’s two reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are at historically low levels, due primarily to climate change and overuse. The water-supply crisis is affecting Colorado and six other states, as well as some 30 tribes, that rely on the Colorado River for water and electricity. Last month the federal government ordered the seven states to jointly come up with a plan to dramatically cut their consumption from the river. They have until mid-August to deliver–or they’ll face mandatory cuts. Host Susan Moran discusses with two guests the underlying causes of the water crisis, what’s at stake, and potential solutions. Jennifer Gimbel is a senior water policy scholar at the Colorado Water Center, located at Colorado State University. Formerly she was an undersecretary of the Department of Interior, and executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.  Tom Yulsman is a science journalist focusing on climate change. He runs the ImaGeo visual blog for Discover magazine, and he is director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at CU Boulder.
Some relevant resources for more info and the basin’s water crisis:
*  2022 Science paper, What Will It Take To Stabilize the Colorado River?
* Fresh Water News (Water Education Colorado)
* The Water Desk

Show Host & Producer: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Headline Contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

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Colorado river crisis // “The Believing Brain”

Lake Mead's dipping water line. Image courtesy of

This week co-host Susan Moran speaks with Dr. Doug Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado,  Boulder’s law school. Kenney sheds light on the Colorado River Compact and how population growth, climate change, and water politics, are expected to further threaten our future water supply.

And Ted Burnham interviews skeptic and science writer Michael Shermer. His new book, “The Believing Brain,” presents a counter-intuitive explanation for how we form and reinforce our beliefs. Shermer draws on evidence from neuroscience, psychology and sociology to show that we often form beliefs first, and only then look for reasons to believe.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker

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