Western water usage remains a hot topic as global warming, over-development, and factory farms have put pressures on how the resources provided by the once-mighty Colorado River are divided up. As the federal government’s plans make headlines, Colorado Public Radio is launching a new podcast and multimedia project based on months of reporting on solutions to help the dwindling Colorado River.
The podcast Parched is the keystone. Hosted by climate and environment reporter Michael Elizabeth Sakas, the podcast explores how the crisis got to this point and highlights people working to stave it off.
“As climate change and population growth slam together in the southwestern United States, we have to start using water differently,” Sakas said. “The Colorado River and its reservoirs, which more than 40 million people depend on, are drying up. There are plenty of scary headlines about the problem; instead, Parched highlights what can be done to help this water crisis.”
Over several months a reporting team from CPR News traveled around the Colorado River states, Tribal Lands and northern Mexico to meet people who rely on the river and have ideas to save it. In 10 episodes set in a variety of cities and landscapes, Parched explores how people are rethinking farming to use less water, the promise and perils of desalinating seawater, what Las Vegas can teach us about conservation, and other solutions that could be initiated or replicated to bolster our water supplies. The series also explains our history of moving water around the West through an Indigenous perspective and the role over-engineering has played in the crisis.
In addition to the podcast, CPR says Parched will feature online stories and social media with visuals made around the region. CPR visuals editor Hart Van Denburg traveled with Sakas to capture how people use water and are trying to preserve life in the region as it dries out.
“We’re using the intimacy of audio storytelling and stunning visuals to help Coloradans and people across the West understand our water situation and see how our collective choices will dictate what happens next,” said CPR Special Projects Editor Rachel Estabrook. “This project shows CPR News is a leader in regional climate and environment reporting. It’s one of the most ambitious things we’ve undertaken in my 10 years in the newsroom.”
Parched will feature ten episodes, which will be released over 11 weeks beginning today (April 18).