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

Listen to the show here:


Colorado River Basin Crisis: Pt. II

Colorado River Basin Crisis Pt. II (start time: 6:19): This week’s How On Earth show focuses on the implications and future prospects after the federal government in June ordered the seven Western states that rely on the river to come up with a plan to save trillions of gallons of water from the shrinking river) — and after the August 15 deadline came and passed without a deal. (Here’s the Bureau of Reclamation’s news release.) How On Earth host Susan Moran interviews Aaron Citron, senior policy advisor with The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado chapter; and journalist Jerd Smith, editor of Fresh Water News. (For background, check out our July 26th show, Pt. I on the Basin’s Basin’s climate, drought, and overuse crisis. Also, see how you can make a difference by taking advantage of this recently signed legislation that helps Colorado residents convert their grass lawns into water-saving landscapes.)

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Headline contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

Listen to today’s show here:


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

Listen to the show here:


State Climatologist // Water Contamination

Nolan Doesken

Feature #1: (start time 5:09)  Did you know that Colorado, and for that matter most states, have their own “state climatologist” – an expert who keeps tabs on the changing climate and its impacts in the state. In Colorado’s case it’s Nolan Doesken. He’s based out of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. Mr. Doesken also heads a nationwide citizen-science project called the  Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran interviews Mr. Doesken about the network, as well as a recently released Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study, which suggests we’ll be thirstier and thirstier in the future.

Mark Williams sampling a groundwater well near Buena Vista.

Feature #2: (start time 16:00) Water is such an essential — perhaps the essential — resource for life that it is considered as a key ingredient for life anywhere in the universe. No surprise, then, that it has become a battleground, especially in the Western states like Colorado that are dealing with drought conditions and higher demand for clean water to support a ever-increasing population. Dr. Mark Williams, professor of geography at CU Boulder talks with co-host Joel Parker about his research into the environmental and human health impacts of energy development and mining on the quality of water in our aquifers.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran|
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen

 (Click below to play audio.)

This show was featured January 7th 2013 by Science 360 Radio