A KBUT Original Series by Stephanie Maltarich
Most would agree that water is the Upper Gunnison River Basin’s most important and valuable resource. Whether it’s falling as snow in the mountains, rushing down rivers and streams, or stored in large buckets called reservoirs – water is essential in more than one way to everyone who lives here. It’s also important for the 40 million people who rely on the 1,450-mile Colorado River. Listen to Headwaters, a five-part series, that dives into what it means to be a headwaters community in the Colorado River Basin at a critical – and pivotal– time for water in the West.
This series was reported and produced for KBUT by Stephanie Maltarich with editorial support from Chad Reich. The series was made with support from The Water Desk, an initiative of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. Additional support from the Center for the Arts 2022 Writer in Residence program and Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District.
Some still don’t have a reliable water source near the headwaters of the Colorado River￼
Water supply is regularly interrupted for residents in a Gunnison mobile home park. After years of bringing attention to the issue, they still haven’t seen solutions. Several members of the community have been working on a state-wide plan to bring more attention to water equity issues.
A centuries-old system determines who gets water first and last
Colorado is increasingly designating rights to streams themselves as rivers and drought continues to shrink water supplies.
Blue Mesa is threatened by a two-decade-long drought and downstream obligations.
The reservoir provides recreation like boating and fishing, powers thousands of homes through hydroelectricity, and stores water for Lake Powell and other downstream users. The reservoir is critically low, and it’s possible water levels may be lowered even further.
Advocacy and science work together to improve water quality in Coal Creek
A legacy of mining tainted Coal Creek. Two organizations in the area have been working for nearly two decades to improve and maintain water quality in the headwaters of the Colorado River.
Scientists in the East River watershed collect ‘mountains of data’ to understand water in the West
Over 150 scientists will research snow and water for two years near Crested Butte, Colorado. The project tracking weather patterns from ‘atmosphere to bedrock’ is the first of its kind.