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Colorado Public Radio is releasing a new podcast called Parched on the Colorado River water crisis and how people can continue to live in the West as the region dries out. The show is hosted by climate and environment reporter Michael Elizabeth Sakas who 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 overengineering has played in the crisis.
Sakas joined CPR in 2016 as a Wycisk Fellow and became a general assignment reporter after the year-long fellowship. In 2019, CPR News established its climate reporting team and Sakas moved into the role of climate and environment reporter, with a focus on water in the West. In 2021, she published a story on the exclusion of tribes from Colorado River policy for a series called “Tapped Out: Power & water justice in the rural West,” which was a collaboration between nine newsrooms in the Western U.S.
In addition to the podcast, “Parched” will feature online stories and social media with rich 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.”