Colorado River

In poll after poll, Americans make it clear: People working together is a good thing.

Collaboration is a lofty goal touted by political and business leaders as a potential way forward on anything from climate change to healthcare to obesity. Drop your weapons, turn your enemies into partners and achieve great things — or so the thinking goes. But collaboration is a concept that sounds great in the abstract and quickly turns messy in practice, with plenty of pitfalls along the way toward a common goal.

Avoiding drawn out fights has always been tough when dealing with water issues in the West.  Collaboration wasn’t always the go-to strategy for environmentalists, political figures and water managers who held competing interests on overtaxed, overdrawn rivers.

But with the Windy Gap Firming Project in northern Colorado’s mountains, old grudges are being put aside in favor of new, collaborative tactics. While some of the West’s oldest enemies are working together, those who feel left behind by all the newfound teamwork aren’t ready to sing "Kumbaya."

Update 10-23-17: The Colorado Attorney General's Office has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Deep Green Resistance on behalf of the Colorado River ecosystem. The story has been updated to reflect this development.

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A few months ago Denver civil rights lawyer Jason Flores-Williams had an idea. He’s made a name for himself recently in a class action lawsuit against the city of Denver where he’s representing the city’s homeless people.

“A lot of times I meet with class members, I take them out to dinner because they’re starving,” he said.

While at a Denver Mexican restaurant, the group started talking about homelessness. One of his homeless clients piped up.

“In an off the cuff, offhand comment [he] said, ‘the only thing more homeless than the homeless is nature,’” Flores-Williams recalled.

Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith [LC-DIG-highsm-11937]

Efforts to manage and preserve the Colorado River are getting a boost from the Walton Family Foundation, which has pledged $20 million over the next two years to fund projects aimed at water conservation and restoring river ecosystems.

Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith [LC-DIG-highsm-11937]

Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River is a new book from David Owen, a staff writer with the New Yorker magazine and author of more than a dozen books.  His latest takes him on a journey across the west following the Colorado River: the dams, reservoirs and pipelines that help quench the thirst of seven states and parts of Mexico. 

Public Domain

A recent study suggests the Colorado River could see a 35% flow reduction by the end of the 21st century due to the effects of climate change.

Bureau of Land Management / Public Domain

A group of researchers has compiled experts' opinions on top Colorado River priorities that should be addressed by the new president.

Maeve Conran / Connecting the Drops

It's been almost a century since the Colorado River Compact was created, divvying up the resources of this mighty waterway between seven states and Mexico. That means almost 40 million people are dependent on the river in some way. Traditionally, the economic value of the river was based on what the water could be used for when extracted—things like agriculture, mining, and industry. Now, more people are pointing to the economic value of keeping water in the river itself.

U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation

A new interactive website from the U.S. Department of the Interior looks to educate the public on the effects of drought in the Colorado River Basin.

Fostering Fish Recovery in the Colorado River Basin

Nov 24, 2015
Laura Palmisano

Some native fish in the Colorado River and its tributaries are struggling to stay afloat.  Invasive species, dams and water diversions all complicate the recovery of endangered fish in those waterways.  One long-standing program ties together federal and state agencies with regional groups to help these cold-blooded creatures make a comeback.

Thursday Newscast, 8/06/15, 5:32 PM

Aug 6, 2015

Newscast for Thursday, 8/6/15, 5:32 PM

  • Jurors are now in deliberation in the sentencing phase of convicted Colorado theater shooter James Holmes. Prosecuting and defense attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments today.  Holmes could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole for killing 12 people and attempting to kill 70 others.
     
  • A huge spill of hazardous mine waste has contaminated the Animas River, which runs through Durango. 
     

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

High up in the Colorado Rockies, across the Continental Divide and northwest of Leadville, is the Homestake Reservoir, and lately, things have been looking good up there.  Colorado Springs Utilities put together a press tour of the region in mid-March to show where that water comes from and how they measure it to predict the year in water.
 

As winter’s grip begins to fade along the Front Range, water managers with Colorado Springs Utilities are closely monitoring what’s happening hundreds of miles away. 

Bureau of Land Management / Public Domain

A new study on the Colorado River estimates the Basin would lose almost two-thirds of its economic value were the waterway to run dry.  KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.
 

Researchers at Arizona State University found the Colorado River system accounts for more than 1.4 trillion dollars in economic activity and provides nearly 16 million jobs. In Colorado, that would mean a loss of nearly 200 billion dollars of economic activity and 2 million jobs.

The Shoshone Power Plant: "A Big Dog on the River"

Dec 9, 2013
Maeve Conran

A complex series of agreements govern the distribution of water throughout the state.  Along the Colorado River, farms, cities & towns, and the recreation industry are all big players.  But everyone takes a backseat to a tiny hydroelectric plant that’s over one hundred years old.  It’s the Shoshone Generating Station, and it plays a critical role on the Upper Colorado.

On Sunday, September 15th, KRCC aired a special one-hour call-in show on the Colorado River as part of our year-long Connecting the Drops collaboration.  The guests were Taylor Hawes, director of the Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program, who recently testified before the U.S.

Connecting the Drops Live Call-In Today on KRCC

Sep 15, 2013

The Colorado River dominates much of the water landscape in our state and throughout the Western US.  Join us today, Sunday, September 15th at 5 PM for a special statewide call-in program about the Colorado River.  We'll be joined by listeners of other community public radio stations across the state. It's part of "Connecting the Drops" our year-long series about water.  A special statewide call-in program on the Colorado River, Sunday, Sept. 15th at 5 PM on KRCC.
Learn more about Connecting the Drops here.