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KUNC Launches New Colorado River Podcast

An illustration of exposed dead cottonwood trees at Lake Mead. Exposed red rock towers above a muddy riverbed with a blue sky filling the space between the rocks, once filled with water.
Illustration: Ashley Jefcoat/KUNC, Original Photo: Alex Hager/KUNC

Reporter Luke Runyon delves into the issues facing the critical water source in “Thirst Gap: Learning to Live with Less on The Colorado River”

The Colorado River is in trouble. The critical waterway supports 40 million people across seven southwestern U.S. states, two Mexican states and 30 tribal nations. Climate change is shrinking the river's water supply, leaving the region's leaders with the task of reducing demand in cities and on farms.

Those tough decisions are the focus of KUNC's new podcast: Thirst Gap: Learning to Live with Less on The Colorado River. KUNC’s award-winning editor and reporter Luke Runyon has spent more than 5 years reporting on the Colorado River, exploring the problems and potential solutions that could help the region find balance between water supply and demand.

The Thirst Gap podcast tile.

Thirst Gap is a six-part podcast series about how the Southwest is adapting to water shortages as climate change causes the region to warm up and dry out. Starting in the summer of 2021, Runyon set out to meet people who are living with less water already, and to share their stories so that we all might glean some lessons about how to do it best. The series examines the tradeoffs inherent in deciding whose water use should be protected and who should sacrifice.

Podcast episodes will drop every Monday beginning April 17. Subscriptions available on all major platforms including Apple, Google, Amazon and Spotify, as well as https://www.kunc.org/thirstgap. Weekly episodes will be broadcast on KUNC on Fridays at 9:30am and 6:00pm starting April 21st.

Since 2017, KUNC--NPR for Northern Colorado--has been at the forefront of Colorado River reporting and western water coverage. KUNC partners with more than 20 news organizations throughout the southwest to fully cover issues in the sprawling Colorado River basin. Partners include public radio stations in Colorado, Nevada, California, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico and the Mountain West News Bureau.

Runyon’s reports have been featured on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Here & Now and APM's Marketplace. His work has been recognized by the Society of Environmental Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association and the Public Media Journalists Association.

“I’m fascinated by the way stories about water are woven through the Southwest’s past, present and future, and I set out on creating this podcast with the intention that I could add some nuance and humanity to the conversation,” Runyon said. “I hope people listen and walk away feeling like they really understand the tough tradeoffs the region is facing when it comes to the Colorado River.”

KUNC President and CEO Tammy Terwelp added “Our Colorado River reporting is one of our most substantial commitments to the public, and I am incredibly proud of the community service Luke has done over the last decade at KUNC. His dedication to this podcast series deepens our goal towards reaching multiple audiences where they are to bring our fact-based journalism and expert storytelling to more people in our home state of Colorado and beyond, to raise further awareness of this limited resource.”


KUNC is NPR for Northern Colorado, broadcasting along the Front Range at 91.5 FM and a network of 19 stations and translators around the state--including 102.7 FM in Boulder, and 91.7 FM in Golden and the west metro area, and streaming at kunc.org

For press contact, please contact Robert Leja at robert.leja@kunc.org or (970) 217-3304