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‘Killing the Colorado’ Doc Examines the Human Causes Behind the Western Water Crisis


A new Discovery Channel documentary, “Killing the Colorado,” premieres tonight. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it examines some of the human causes behind the growing scarcity of water in the West.

Several filmmakers collaborated for the project. They interviewed water managers and elected officials in western states about how an expanding population combined with outdated policy has created a full-blown water crisis.

“I believe that it is possible to find an equilibrium between sustaining the bread basket of agriculture, the great abundance that it provides. But also to be mindful of what the costs are,” says Jesse Moss, one of the directors.

Forty million people in seven states depend on the Colorado River for drinking water. Nearly 80 percent of the river is used for agriculture and U.S. food production. Water managers say inefficient storage, farming practices, drought, and climate change have contributed to water depletion on the Colorado River.

“Killing the Colorado” also examines solutions like infrastructure updates and using the free market to combat water shortages.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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