CU Boulder Lands $700K Grant to Support Reporting on Water Issues

April 4, 2019 GMT

A journalism initiative to expand coverage of Western water issues is launching this month at the University of Colorado Boulder with support from a two-year, $700,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

The Water Desk, as it is known, is based in the College of Media, Communication and Information’s Center for Environmental Journalism. It will provide support to reporters covering the scientific, economic and political aspects of Western water issues, with an emphasis on the Colorado River Basin, according to a news release.

Its goals are to provide support to journalists, turn out original content and promote education and community engagement on the subject.


“Some 40 million people in the United States and Mexico draw water from the basin, and the region is confronting unprecedented challenges managing its most precious natural resource,” Professor Tom Yulsman, director of the Center for Environmental Journalism, said in a statement.

“Given our focus on enriching public understanding of environmental issues through better journalism, the Water Desk is a natural fit for us at the Center for Environmental Journalism.”

In addition to providing support to seasoned reporters, the Walton Family Foundation grant is intended to help emerging journalists enhance their ability to cover the scientific, economic, political and social aspects of these issues.

In an interview, Yulsman said, “We have grant money that we will be offering to news organizations that cover issues related to the Colorado River Basin, and so we’ll have a process soon for folks to apply for grant money.

“The idea is that with all the trouble that journalism has experienced in recent years, it’s difficult for reporters to break away and do a deep dive on subjects. We’re hoping to enable a bit more of that.”

Additionally, Yulsman said, the initiative carries a “major educational component,” with one class entirely devoted to water issues and paid internships. Also, CU’s News Corps — which takes an in-depth, multimedia approach to reporting — plans to devote its resources to water issues in the fall.

“Around the world, water is one of the defining issues of the 21st century,” Mitch Tobin, the Water Desk’s incoming director and a former award-winning newspaper reporter who covered water and other issues for the Napa Valley Register, Tucson Citizen and Arizona Daily Star, said in a news release.

“Here in Colorado and the American West, the stakes have never been higher as climate change and population growth continue to stress our water resources.”

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, brennanc@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan