Upper Colorado River Institute

Colorado and utah
July 22-29, 2017

 

Photo by Christian Mehlführer, Wikimedia User Chmeh

Photo by Christian Mehlführer, Wikimedia User Chmeh

 
 

 

There's an adage in the American West that "Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over," and perhaps nowhere do those words appear to ring truer than in the Colorado River Basin. The poster child of an over-allocated and embattled resource, the Colorado passes through seven states and offers sustenance on many fronts: It provides water for more than 30 million people and a significant portion of our nation's food supply. It's home to a handful of endangered fish and wildlife species, and supports a $26 billion recreational economy across the Southwest. And yet, demand for water so outstrips supply that this mighty river runs dry more than 100 miles before it reaches the coast at the Sea of Cortez. 

One of the most heavily managed rivers in the world, the Colorado bears little resemblance to its original state: More than 100 dams have been built by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the purposes of hydroelectric energy, flood control, and storage. Aqueducts, pipelines, tunnels and canals shunt water away from the river; Agriculture consumes nearly 80 percent of the Colorado's water, while municipal needs claim the remaining 20 percent. 

Lake Powell. Photo courtesy NASA

Lake Powell. Photo courtesy NASA

Predictions suggest that the future will see more of the same. Populations and water demand are expected to increase, and some scientific models suggest that climate change will lead to shorter winters, earlier spring runoff, and increased evaporation. Drought will exacerbate an already stressed resource.  Throughout the Southwest, ecosystems and economies alike hang in the balance. 

Because the Colorado stretches across such an extensive swath of the American Southwest, it would be impossible to cover the whole river over the span of one Institute. So, we're doing two. In late July 2017, we'll be conducting an Institute that explores the Upper Colorado River, from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to the point on the Arizona/Utah border where Glen Canyon forms Lake Powell.  In early 2018 we'll return to the region, and continue the journey downstream on a second Institute. These will be two separate Institutes, with two separate application periods. 

Among the topics we plan to cover on July's Upper Colorado Institute:
 

  • Moving Water Under Mountains: Trans-basin diversion, urban development and the ever-increasing demand for water
  • Seeing the Future: Climate change, drought,  hydrologic forecasting, and water supplies in the Colorado River Basin
  • Feeding the People: Agriculture, irrigation and the shifting landscape of water allocation
  • Water on the Reservation: Rights, access and the Navajo Water Project
  • A Shrinking Reservoir: Siltation, evaporation, and the fate of Lake Powell
  • Historic Thirst: Centuries of water use in the basin
  • Costs of Extraction: Mining, spills and water quality
  • Flora and Fauna: Endangered, introduced and invasive species in the Colorado River Basin
  • Riding the River: Recreation and its economic impacts in the basin

Congratulations to our Upper Colorado Institute Fellows!

Welcome Aboard!


 

About IJNR

The mission of the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources (IJNR) is to advance public understanding and civic engagement about environment, natural resource, public health and development issues through better journalism. IJNR conducts expenses-paid, expedition-style training and professional development programs for journalists at all career stages and from all sorts and sizes of news outlets, ranging from newspapers and magazines to radio, television and online operations. 

Supporters of this program include the Walton Family Foundation as well as other foundations and individual donors. 

IJNR maintains editorial independence and control in all of its programming and decision-making.