An initiative of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder

About The Water Desk

The Water Desk is an independent, nonprofit journalism initiative with three priorities:

  • Support for journalists: Funding and other resources for journalists and media outlets covering water issues, with a focus on the Colorado River Basin and Western North America
  • News and original content: Coverage of water issues and multimedia content produced by The Water Desk and members of its collaborative network
  • Education and engagement: Working with CU Boulder students and others beyond the campus to inform the public and policymakers

Stories and reports

Cedar Springs Marina photo

Feds won’t do more emergency water releases to aid Lake Powell after this year

The releases from Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa and Navajo reservoirs are designed to bolster hydropower production at the ailing Lake Powell.
Elk Creek Marina photo

Blue Mesa Reservoir releases to prop up Lake Powell impacting recreation

In an effort to prop up water levels at Lake Powell, water managers are negatively impacting recreation on Colorado’s biggest man-made lake. 
Environmental release flows into the El Chausse restoration site photo

Water-starved Colorado River Delta gets another shot of life from the river’s flows

Despite water shortages along the drought-stressed Colorado River, experimental flows resumed in Mexico to revive trees and provide habitat.

Water Desk news and grant announcements

Water Desk awards new grants to journalists and media outlets

The Water Desk is excited to announce the recipients of new grants to support water-related journalism in the seven states of the Colorado River Basin and the borderlands of...

Studying the snowpack in a changing climate – Water Buffs Podcast ep. 5 – Noah...

The snowpack is crucial to the West’s water supply, ecosystems and economy. But climate change threatens to make the region’s snowpack thinner and less reliable. We talk to a leading snowpack researcher about how scientists are analyzing the past, present and future of the West’s snow.

Special Series: Crisis on the Colorado

The Water Desk is pleased to republish this outstanding five-part series by Jim Robbins and Ted Wood for Yale Environment 360.

Crisis on the Colorado Part I: The West’s Great River Hits Its Limits– Will...

As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water may be cut off.
After two decades of drought, Lake Mead, which is impounded by Hoover Dam, is just 40 percent full. A “bathtub ring” visible along the edges of the lake show how far its water levels have dropped. PHOTO BY TED WOOD. SUPPORT FOR AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS PROVIDED BY LIGHTHAWK

Crisis on the Colorado Part II: On a Water-Starved River, Drought Is the New...

With the Southwest locked in a 19-year drought and climate change making the region increasingly drier, water managers and users along the Colorado River are facing a troubling question: Are we in a new, more arid era when there will never be enough water?
A canal diverts water from the Colorado River to farms in Palisade, Colorado. TED WOOD

Crisis on the Colorado Part III: Running Dry– New Strategies for Conserving Water

Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of drought and water shortages that is threatening their future. With an official water emergency declaration now possible, farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less water and survive.

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Latest multimedia content

This content is free to use and repost by media organizations and others under a Creative Commons license.

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Resources

We’ve collected a series of resources that help explain the complex and sometimes contentious world of water issues.

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Cases, agreements and treaties

The legal intricacies of Western water can be difficult to wade through. This timeline offers an introduction to some key cases, agreements and treaties....

Background readings on Western water

Here are some helpful online resources for learning more about the Colorado River Basin and Western water issues. On this page: 1922 Colorado River Compact1922...

Glossaries

It’s hard to understand water issues unless you know the lingo. Here are some helpful water-related glossaries on the web: The U.S. Geological Survey's Dictionary...

Water books

Want to go deep and really learn about water issues? Here's a list of great nonfiction books on (Western) water issues, curated by Mitch...

Media and journalism

On this page you'll find a guide to water media, a Twitter list for Western water and examples of great water journalism. Water news sources One...