Colorado River

The Colorado River's First Dam Transformed The Desert Southwest

Feb 22, 2018
Bret Jaspers/KJZZ

We’re all familiar with the Hoover Dam. And you might know about Glen Canyon or other dams that manage the Colorado River. But the very first dam on the Colorado was the Laguna Dam. It diverted water to farm fields in Arizona’s Yuma Valley. Bret Jaspers from KJZZ in Phoenix has more on how the Laguna Dam set the table for large-scale farming in the southwest.

In 2014, the Colorado River did something it hadn’t done in decades. For a few short weeks that spring, the overdrawn, overallocated river reached the Pacific Ocean.

Instead of diverting the river’s last bit of water toward farm fields, the final dam on the Colorado River at the Mexican border lifted, and water inundated nearly 100 miles of the dry riverbed. It was called the pulse flow, meant to mimic a spring flood.


Sonoran Institute

Last year, the Sonoran Institute and Lincoln Institute of Land Policy launched a new program to address the lack of integration between land use planning and water management within the Colorado River basin. KDNK’s Raleigh Burleigh spoke with Jeremy Stapleton, program director for Resilient Communities and Watersheds to learn more.

The Shoshone Hydroelectric Power Plant, just east of Glenwood Springs along the Colorado River, was built in 1905. It generates 15 megawatts of power and is a popular rafting spot in the summer. It also holds the state’s oldest water right on the river. For this edition of Sounds of the High Country, KDNK’s Amy Hadden Marsh talks to Emily Benson, editorial fellow at High Country News, about the impact of this single water right. Here's her story: The Tiny Power Plant That Shapes the Colorado River.

Wild Rose Education

The Andy Zanca Youth News Team reports on local water issues from the 2017 Youth Water Summit, presented by Wild Rose Education and Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board.

Photo by Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism


The state of Colorado has called for dismissal of a lawsuit that would grant the Colorado River ecosystem legal rights in court. For this week’s News Brief, KDNK’s Amy Hadden Marsh talks with Brent Gardner-Smith, editor of Aspen Journalism, about the case. Click here to read the story.

Sixth grade students from Glenwood Springs Middle School wrote public service announcements encouraging KDNK listeners to protect the rivers.

Sixth grade students from Glenwood Springs Middle School wrote public service announcements encouraging KDNK listeners to protect the rivers.