Building a network for water journalism

The Water Desk is building a collaborative network of media outlets that cross-publish content related to Western water issues.

Raft trip on the Colorado River through Grand Canon National Park. Photo by Ted Wood.The Water Desk.

Members will be encouraged to share content, promote one another’s work and collaborate on projects. There is no cost to join the network. The Water Desk will help manage the project, facilitate sharing of content, create original journalism for the network and publish material from network members on this website. We also hope to use the network as a vehicle for fundraising to support water journalism and advance the field.

Members will be encouraged to share content, promote one another’s work and collaborate on projects. There is no cost to join the network. 

If your media outlet is interested in joining this new network, please contact us!

The Water Desk also runs a separate grantmaking program, in which both individual journalists and media outlets can apply for funding to support journalism connected to Western water issues. We encourage our grantees to join our network, but it is not required to receive funding from The Water Desk. Likewise, we will encourage network members to apply for our grants, but that’s not a prerequisite for joining the network.

The Water Desk was launched with a grant from the Walton Family Foundation and we are now seeking additional support to build and sustain the initiative. We maintain a strict editorial firewall between our funders and journalism. We’re also editorially independent of the University of Colorado Boulder, where we’re based at the Center for Environmental Journalism.

What The Water Desk can offer

  • Serving as the network’s hub, facilitating collaboration among members, creating a platform for shared content and connecting members to resources to support their journalism.
  • Providing free content to members of the network, including stories, columns, photos, videos and data visualizations.
  • Connecting members to Lighthawk, a volunteer flying service that can provide free flights so journalists can integrate aerial reporting/footage into their work.
  • Connecting members to This American Land, which produces video segments for television stations.
  • Serving as an resource on Western water issues and helping journalists find both the sources and support needed to produce quality journalism.
  • Leading fundraising efforts to support the network, its members and the field of water journalism.

What members can offer the network

  • The Water Desk is looking to advance journalism that focuses on Western water issues, especially stories and other content related to 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.
  • Because water is intertwined with so many issues, we’re interested in a broad spectrum of coverage—climate change, biodiversity, public health, environmental justice, food, agriculture, drinking water, economics, business, recreation and more.
  • The Water Desk works with a variety of media—newspapers, magazines, websites, video, television, radio, podcasts and other channels—so we are seeking to build a network that includes a diversity of platforms.
  • Media outlets that join the network will be encouraged (but not required) to share content related to Western water issues so that The Water Desk can provide it to other members and disseminate the journalism more widely. Network members will always have the option of first publishing the content exclusively on their own platform.

Requirements and republishing guidelines

  • Membership in The Water Desk network is only open to journalistic media outlets. Government agencies, advocacy groups, businesses and other non-journalism organizations are not eligible to join the network.
  • Members of the network will be encouraged—but not required—to share their water-related content with The Water Desk, which in turn will make that coverage available for free under a Creative Commons license to other members of the network, as well as to the general public via
  • Any media outlet that uses content from The Water Desk network must not alter the coverage, except such things as reflecting date changes and modifying language to adhere to house editorial style.
  • Media outlets that run content from other members of the network will include an editor’s note that provides a link to the original source of the material and The Water Desk:
    • For stories created by network members: “This article originally appeared on [network member name and link], a member of The Water Desk network. The Water Desk is an independent journalism initiative based at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Environmental Journalism.”
  • Content from The Water Desk and its network members may be published on pages with advertisements, but not with ads specifically sold against the content. The content also may not be sold separately or syndicated. 
  • If you share any content from The Water Desk and its network members on social media, please tag The Water Desk (@TheWaterDesk on Twitter) and/or the network member.