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Los Angeles Times Series Examines ‘Colorado River in Crisis’

A visitor takes pictures at dusk from an overlook above Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River near Page.
The multimedia project includes a video series featuring key experts, a visual journey of photographs along the watershed, a six-episode podcast special featured on “The Times” and more.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
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The Los Angeles Times has launched an ambitious multimedia series that focuses on the Southwest’s shrinking water lifeline. Colorado River in Crisis includes articles, videos and podcasts in which Times journalists travel throughout the river’s watershed, from the headwaters in the Rocky Mountains to the dry delta in Mexico.

“These stories reveal the stark toll of the river’s decline, responses that have yet to match the scale of the crisis, and voices that are urging a fundamental rethinking of how water is managed and used to adapt to the reality of a river that is over-tapped and dwindling,” Times staffers wrote in an introduction to the series, which launched on Jan. 6.

The idea for the project originated a year ago, when Staff Writer Ian James, who reported the articles along with former Houston Bureau Chief Molly Hennessy-Fiske, started seeing signs that the Colorado River crisis, brought on by years of drought, climate change and overuse, was getting significantly worse.

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“The projections of continuing declines in the river’s large reservoirs showed a risk of water levels approaching ‘dead pool,’ a point at which water would no longer pass downstream from Hoover Dam,” James said. So he sketched out an idea for a project examining the crisis, looking at what’s at stake and how reckoning with the reality of a shrinking river will affect the entire Southwest.

The result is a multifaceted project, which included a video series featuring key experts, a visual journey of photographs along the watershed, a six-episode podcast special featured on “The Times” and more.

James said those who are following the series can expect to learn about many facets of the Colorado River crisis by embarking on a “journey” with the Times reporting team.

“By watching the videos and listening to the podcast, people will be able to come along to see scientists measuring the snow in the Rocky Mountains, the alarming declines in Lake Powell and other reservoirs, and the dry stretch of desert where the river ends in Mexico.”

James said he hopes the multimedia effort will serve to educate more people on the crisis and how it might be solved.

“I hope readers, viewers and listeners come away with a deeper understanding of where our water comes from, how it’s used and managed, and how our region could begin to take steps toward bringing water use in line with what the Colorado River can provide.”

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Explore the Colorado River in Crisis series.

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