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lake mead photo
With talks looming on a new operating agreement for the river, a debate has emerged over the best approach to address its challenges.

More from The Water Desk and our partners

Northwest Colorado ranchers grapple with state requirements to measure, record water...

Irrigators in Northwest Colorado are facing a sea change in how they use their water, and many ranchers are greeting such a shift with reluctance and suspicion.

Anger and disappointment as Yampa River ranchers ordered to measure water

Hundreds of ranchers in the Yampa Valley have ignored a state request to begin measuring the water they use, putting them on a collision course with regulators if they don’t relent.
The Colorado River delta in Baja California is a mosaic of old river channels, tidal salt flats, and runoff from agricultural fields to the north. PHOTO BY TED WOOD

Crisis on the Colorado Part V: Bringing New Life to a...

The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat for native plants, fish, and wildlife.

Crisis on the Colorado Part IV: In Era of Drought, Phoenix...

Once criticized for being a profligate user of water, fast-growing Phoenix has taken some major steps — including banking water in underground reservoirs, slashing per-capita use, and recycling wastewater — in anticipation of the day when the flow from the Colorado River ends.
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...

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.
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...

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?

Stories from The Water Desk

Decades later, abandoned mines continue to haunt Colorado’s waterways

According to a 2017 study, there are over 23,000 abandoned mines across Colorado and 1,800 miles of streams that are impaired due to pollutants related to acid mine drainage.

Stories produced by our editorial team and partners. These are free for reposting by qualifying organizations.

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The Water Desk’s mission is to increase the volume, depth and power of journalism connected to Western water issues. We're an initiative of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. The Water Desk launched in April 2019 with support from the Walton Family Foundation. We maintain a strict editorial firewall between our funders and our journalism. The Water Desk is seeking additional funding to build and sustain the initiative.