Apply for funding from The Water Desk

We are not currently accepting applications for grants. To learn about future funding opportunities for journalists and media outlets, please subscribe to our newsletter.

The information below applies to 2022 grantees. We are not currently accepting applications.

This page explains how journalists can apply to The Water Desk for funding to support their coverage of water issues in and around the Colorado River Basin.

In 2022, we will be awarding grants of up to $10,000 to support significant reporting efforts that lead to the publication of content connected to the Colorado River Basin.

This grantmaking program is only open to journalists (freelance and staff) and media outlets.

The deadline for applications for the 2022 Colorado River Basin grants is September 21, 2022 at 11:59 pm Pacific.

The Water Desk is interested in supporting a wide variety of media and journalistic approaches: newspapers, magazines, websites, video, television, radio, podcasts and other channels.

The Water Desk will support journalism that focuses on water issues involving the seven states of the Colorado River Basin—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming—as well as the borderlands of Northwest Mexico.

Proposals related to areas that lie outside of the hydrologic boundaries of the Colorado River Basin’s watershed must have a strong connection to water issues in the basin.

Because water is intertwined with so many issues, we are open to proposals covering a broad spectrum of topics: climate change, biodiversity, pollution, public health, environmental justice, food, agriculture, drinking water, economics, recreation and more. We are especially interested in stories that explore inequities in our water systems.

Funding for these grants comes from the Walton Family Foundation. As a journalistic initiative, The Water Desk maintains a policy of strict editorial independence from our funders, as well as from the University of Colorado Boulder. Funders of The Water Desk have no right to review nor influence stories or other journalistic content that is produced with the support of these grants.

Eligibility and guidelines

  • Only journalists (freelancers and staff at media outlets) may apply for funding. Proposals from advocacy groups will not be accepted.
  • Grantees must complete the work they outline in their proposals within six months of receiving funding.
  • Recipients of prior grants from The Water Desk are welcome to apply for 2022 funding if they have completed their existing project by September 21, 2022.
  • Journalists and media outlets are welcome to collaborate and submit a joint proposal. Regardless of how many journalists/outlets are part of the application, the cap on these grants is $10,000.
  • Journalists can apply for less than $10,000, but the minimum request is $2,500.
  • We plan to announce the awards by early November.

Application materials

All application materials must be submitted to The Water Desk online.

Please visit our Google form to complete the application and submit a single document (8 pages maximum) with the following materials:

1) A summary of the proposed work that includes:

  • Narrative explaining the story/project, including its news value, potential impact and importance to water issues in the Colorado River Basin.
  • Discussion of how the content will be distributed and the potential audience. For freelancers, please submit at least a letter of interest from an editor at a media outlet. If you don’t have such a commitment, please explain your plan for pitching and disseminating your content, and why your targeted outlet is most appropriate for this project. Projects without a letter of interest or commitment from a publisher are much less likely to be approved.
  • Description of what journalistic tools and approaches you will use (e.g., text, photo, video, audio, data visualization, public records, etc.).

2) A proposed budget that explains how the grant will be spent. You may use your own format for the budget, but please break out expenses using standard categories, such as salary, travel, books/reports, data, photos, equipment, etc.

3) A short biography (250 words maximum) of the journalist(s) involved in the story/project.

4) A current resume for the applicant. If a team of journalists is applying, please only submit the project leader’s resume.

5) Links to three relevant work products (stories, projects, photos, videos, etc.) produced by the journalist(s) or media outlet(s).

Additional information

The full amount of the grant will be paid upon approval of the proposal. Funds may not be used to reimburse past expenses on a project. Funds can be used only for expenses incurred after the grantee agreement is signed and returned to The Water Desk. If there are any unspent funds, or if the project could not be completed, grantees must return those funds to The Water Desk.

We request that any content produced with funding from these grants be made available to The Water Desk so that we can republish the material on our website and then make the content available for free to other media outlets. Journalists and media outlets are welcome to first publish the content exclusively via their own platforms. If your media outlet will not permit the content to be republished, we still welcome your proposal.

We require grantees to report back to The Water Desk on engagement, website traffic and any impact related to content produced with The Water Desk’s support. This will allow us to track the impact of the grantmaking.

Questions? Please contact Water Desk Director Mitch Tobin at  

Aerial view of the Green River. Credit: /